Professors develop animated learning modules for computer course

Jeffrey Stone, instructor of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State Schuylkill, and Tricia Clark, instructional designer and instructor of IST at Penn State Berks, have developed a set of animated learning modules designed to help first-year students succeed in the CMPSC 101 and CMPSC 121 courses at Penn State Schuylkill.

The Problem-Oriented Animated Learning Modules for Introductory Computer Science (PALMS for CS1) project utilizes a set of multimedia learning modules and related tools to engage students and enhance their likelihood of success in both classes. IST students are required to take one of the two courses during their freshman year (CMPSC 121 also is a required course for Engineering and Computer Science majors). The PALMS for CS1 project was designed to improve student engagement and retention by enhancing the problem-solving skills of first-year students and by illustrating the applicability of computer science and IST to other fields.

The project's first module is focused on helping students to learn algorithms and basic problem-solving skills. The module's multimedia presentation integrates still images, audio, video, computer animations, interactive quizzes and screen recordings, and serves as the content mechanism for the first four weeks of both courses. The second module, which includes additional animated podcasts, quizzes and lab exercises for learning the C++ programming language, is used during the last 11 weeks of both courses. The PALMS project initially was introduced in fall 2008 and students have reported high levels of engagement with the tools. A more formal assessment of the effects of the project ongoing.

Currently, the project only is being used at Penn State's Schuylkill campus, though efforts are under way to expand it to other Penn State campuses and courses. The project has been supported by funding from the Penn State Schuylkill Advisory Board and the Penn State Schuylkill Faculty-Student Research Endowment.