Seminar Series - OpenDSA: An Interactive eTextbook for Data Structures and Algorithms

Speaker: Dr. Cliff Shaffer, Computer Science, Virginia Tech
Date: Friday, September 28, 2012
Time: 11:15am-12:30pm
Location: 2150 Torgersen

The OpenDSA project seeks to fundamentally improve instruction in courses such as CS3114: Data Structures and Algorithms (DSA). DSA courses play a central role in Computer Science curricula, but students often find this material difficult to comprehend because so much of the content is about dynamic processes, such as the behavior of algorithms and their effects over time on data structures. OpenDSA combines (i) textbook-quality content with (ii) interactive algorithm visualizations for all algorithms and (iii) frequent practice exercises and automated feedback. When a course provides a steady stream of exercises and activities with automated grading and immediate feedback on performance, then students and their instructors can better know whether they are on track. The core theories of change associated with this project are: (1) Students currently receive insufficient practice and feedback on the state of their knowledge, a problem which the interactive exercises in OpenDSA will remedy, and (2) CS instructors will find it easier to adopt OpenDSA materials than algorithm visualization materials of the past since OpenDSA provides complete units of instruction at the topic and course levels. This talk will also present some of the pedagogical theory that we rely on when designing online materials.