The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Visual Algorithm Simulation

Ari Korhonen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 21st of November, 2003, at 12 o'clock noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-6795-0)   [1286 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-6788-8)


Understanding data structures and algorithms, both of which are abstract concepts, is an integral part of software engineering and elementary computer science education. However, people usually have difficulty in understanding abstract concepts and processes such as procedural encoding of algorithms and data structures. One way to improve their understanding is to provide visualizations to make the abstract concepts more concrete.

This thesis presents the design, implementation and evaluation for the Matrix application framework that occupies a unique niche between the following two domains. In the first domain, called algorithm animation, abstractions of the behavior of fundamental computer program operations are visualized. In the second domain, called algorithm simulation, the framework for exploring and understanding algorithms and data structures is exhibited.

First, an overview and theoretical basis for the application framework is presented. Second, the different roles are defined and examined for realizing the idea of algorithm simulation. The roles considered includes users (i.e., learners and instructors), visualizers (those who specify the visualizations), programmers (those who wrote the original algorithms to be visualized), and the developers (those who continue to design and implement the Matrix framework). Finally, the effectiveness of the algorithm simulation exercises, the main application embodied in the framework, is studied. The current tool is utilized for delivering, representing, solving, and submitting tracing exercises that can be automatically assessed, and thus provides meaningful feedback on learners performance.

Keywords: software visualization, algorithm animation, algorithm simulation exercises, automatic assessment

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© 2003 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26