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TENDER-BLOCK – playful approach to software-testing

TENDER-BLOCK – playful approach to software-testing

Blocks-based programs work a bit like toy blocks and make it easier for beginners to get started in codes. In this project, a team of the University of Passau develops software engineering toolkits to test and debug codes in this learning environment.

Visual, blocks-based programming environments are increasingly used to introduce learners to programming concepts, and to enable domain experts, who are not professional software engineers, to create programs. Although this approach successfully lowers entry barriers into writing computer programs, the advanced toolkits of professional, text-based programming languages are usually not available on visual programming languages.

"To some extent, the reason for this is that manually analysing and solving problems is an important learning aspect and of high educational value. Albeit, this hardly justifies the complete absence of tool support", said Professor Gordon Fraser, who holds the Chair of Software Engineering II at the University of Passau, Germany.

He added that there are many scenarios where the absence of such support leads to negative implications: From a learner's perspective, there are concerns about the programming and software engineering skills achieved in absence of any sense of quality, as is the case in the currently common learning scenario. Difficulties in solving programming challenges can get in the way achieving the intended learning outcomes in other domains, for example when programming is used as a tool to convey mathematical concepts.

From a teacher's perspective, monitoring learning progress, supporting learners and assessing and grading learning outcomes is challenging and tedious. From a user perspective, finding and fixing bugs, determining when a program is finished, whether it is working as expected, and what the quality of the implementation is, is down to intuition and manual exploration. "This is particularly frustrating for novice and learning programmers, especially those attempting to engage with programming outside of a curricular activity, resulting in abandoned programming projects, as well as users losing interest in programming", said Professor Fraser. He and his team want to change that: In the project TENDER-BLOCK they develop software engineering toolkits to test and debug codes in blocks-based programming environments.

Principal Investigator(s) at the University Prof. Dr. Gordon Fraser (Lehrstuhl für Software Engineering II)
Project period 01.04.2020 - 31.03.2023
Source of funding
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft > DFG - Sachbeihilfe
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft > DFG - Sachbeihilfe
Funding notice The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project TENDER-BLOCK for a period of three years.

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