Martha Shaka and Diego Carrera headshots

Insight Education: AI enhancing programming learning at UCC

Submitted on Thursday, 09/11/2023

This research is dedicated to improving programming education, aiming to make it more accessible and effective for students of various backgrounds. Traditional programming education faces challenges when it comes to meeting the diverse needs of learners and delivering personalised, scalable learning experiences. Conventional teaching methods often struggle to adapt to different learning styles and provide individualised feedback.

In response to these challenges, researchers have turned to the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). They have developed AI-based Programming Tools (AIPTs) that can provide automated feedback on programming assignments, simplify complex programming concepts and guide students through problem-solving tasks. While AIPTs like ChatGPT and Copilot have gained popularity for their productivity-enhancing capabilities, they still fall short in terms of personalisation, neglecting the individual student’s unique knowledge and skills.

This research, by Ms. Martha Shaka of the SFI Centre for Research Training AI (pictured), Dr Diego Carraro (pictured) and Prof Ken Brown, both of Insight at UCC, takes a step forward by utilising AI to develop AIPTs that offer personalised feedback through adaptive learning. The goal is to accommodate students from diverse backgrounds and proficiency levels within the same class. By incorporating Knowledge Tracing (KT), a data mining method, the research predicts specific syntax errors that students may encounter in their programming assignments.

This is especially valuable for novice programmers as they transition from natural language to the precision required in programming languages. The findings from this research suggest that these AIPTs have the potential to transform programming education. They enable early identification of students struggling with specific errors or misconceptions, automate personalised feedback and inform customised instructional strategies. Ultimately, this approach not only enhances learning but also assists educators in delivering tailored support to each student.