Monday, April 10, 2006

Young Users ~= First User

Two blogs on the 8th of April complement each other nicely. Andre blogged about the importance of first impressions, and how perspectives can often confuse users (First Impressions). Right before this, Wassim talked about how we should be looking to attract a younger audience (Younger Audience).

I am currently spending part of my time teaching first year computer science at the University of Victoria, and some of my students are using Eclipse. I use it during lecture to show code examples, step through code, etc... I even supply the assignments as projects that can be directly imported into the workbench. Students are not required to use Eclipse, and sadly, most of them don't. We are currently running some studies to see what IDEs they use and why, but confusion is one reason that drives students away from Eclipse. Changing perspectives, an overly complicated debugger (for first year students) and *millions* of menu items are some of the reasons students were weary of our favorite development environment.

Because of this, some researchers I work with started to develop a simplified IDE built on Eclipse targeted directly at First Year Students (Gild). Features include, No Auto Complete (yes, I said No Auto Complete, would you give a calculator to a grade 1 when trying to teach them how to add?), a single perspective for everything (debugging, coding, etc...), a clear separation between Build and Run, simplified menus, and many more... The tool is still a research prototype, but hopefully it helps slowly introduce students to the wonderful world of Eclipse, without over complicating things.

1 comment:

Alex Kravets said...

Well, your last paragraph is what makes Eclipse important and this should be communicated to students. I love it!