Designing Engaging Learning Experiences in Programming

Martin, Chris; Hughes, Janet and Richards, John (2018). Designing Engaging Learning Experiences in Programming. In: Computers Supported Education (Escudeiro, Paula; Costagliola, Gennaro; Zvacek, Susan; Uhomoibhi, James and McLaren, Bruce M. eds.), Communications in Computer and Information Science, Springer, pp. 221–245.



In this paper we describe work to investigate the creation of engaging programming learning experiences. Background research informed the design of four fieldwork studies to explore how programming tasks could be framed to motivate learners. Our empirical findings from these four field studies are summarized here, with a particular focus upon one – Whack a Mole – which compared the use of a physical interface with the use of a screen-based equivalent interface to obtain insights into what made for an engaging learning experience. Emotions reported by two sets of participant undergraduate students were analyzed, identifying the links between the emotions experienced during programming and their origin. Evidence was collected of the very positive emotions experienced by learners programming with a physical interface (Arduino) in comparison with a similar program developed using a screen-based equivalent interface. A follow-up study provided further evidence of the motivation of personalized design of programming tangible physical artefacts. Collating all the evidence led to the design of a set of ‘Learning Dimensions’ which may provide educators with insights to support key design decisions for the creation of engaging programming learning experiences.

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