Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the development of a system called Structured Hypermedia Algorithm Explanation (SHALEX), as a remedy for the limitations existing within the current traditional algorithm animation (AA) systems. SHALEX provides several novel features, such as use of invariants, reflection of the high‐level structure of an algorithm rather than low‐level steps, and support for programming the algorithm in any procedural or object‐oriented programming language. Design/methodology/approach – By defining the structure of an algorithm as a directed graph of abstractions, algorithms may be studied top‐down, bottom‐up, or using a mix of the two. In addition, SHALEX includes a learner model to provide spatial links, and to support evaluations and adaptations. Findings – Evaluations of traditional AA systems designed to teach algorithms in higher education or in professional training show that such systems have not achieved many expectations of their developers. One reason for this failure is the lack of stimulating learning environments which support the learning process by providing features such as multiple levels of abstraction, support for hypermedia, and learner‐adapted visualizations. SHALEX supports these environments, and in addition provides persistent storage that can be used to analyze students' performance. In particular, this storage can be used to represent a student model that supports adaptive system behavior. Research limitations/implications – SHALEX is being implemented and tested by the authors and a group of students. The tests performed so far have shown that SHALEX is a very useful tool. In the future additional quantitative evaluation is planned to compare SHALEX with other AA systems and/or the concept keyboard approach. Practical implications – SHALEX has been implemented as a web‐based application using the client‐server architecture. Therefore students can use SHALEX to learn algorithms both through distance education and in the classroom setting. Originality/value – This paper presents a novel algorithm explanation system for users who wish to learn algorithms.
International Journal of Web Information Systems – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 28, 2007
Keywords: Interactive devices; Multimedia systems; Programming; Programming languages; Learning methods