«Increasing Student Interaction with Formal Languages using Programmed Instruction»




Cliff Shaffer


Typical textbooks for Formal Languages courses are heavy on prose and mathematics. We know that students do not engage such material, skipping or rushing through without understanding. To increase student engagement, we developed support within the OpenDSA eTextbook system for creating materials based on the Programmed Instruction pedagogical paradigm. This requires near-constant activity by the student, who must read a little and then answer a question or complete an exercise before they may continue. We also make heavy use of machine simulators, visualizations, and autograded exercises. Versions of the eTextbook have been used to teach our senior-level Formal Languages course at Virginia Tech for two years. We will demonstrate how students interact with material using the Programmed Instruction approach.




Cliff Shaffer

Clifford A. Shaffer is Professor and Associate Department Head in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. He received his PhD from the University of Maryland, and is an ACM Distinguished Educator. His current research promotes online technologies for learning. He directs the OpenDSA project, an open-source, online collection of materials and infrastructure for creating eTextbooks on Computer Science topics. He also studies integration of online educational tools, and developing tools for analyzing learner analytics. Find him on the web at http://www.cs.vt.edu/shaffer.


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