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Latest revision as of 16:08, 5 June 2011

Programming Team Practice: Transitioning from Voluntary Sessions to a Sanctioned Course

Dr. Ian Barland
Radford University
Radford, VA, USA

Dr. Maung Htay
Radford University
Radford, VA, USA



We report on a change in how our school’s programming team met to train: transitioning from holding informal weekend practice sessions, to offering a 1 credit hour “Programming Practicum” course. The change has yielded better participation, and provides a mechanism for the university’s administration to recognize the department and student contributions. Having a course has changed how the training has proceeded, and how it is perceived by students. The course is taught somewhat differently, depending on semester: in the fall, there is emphasis on completing sample contest problems; in the spring there is more emphasis on relating problem solutions to topics students have seen throughout the curriculum, but may be rusty on, such as complexity analysis of algorithms, impact of memory on performance, programming language features, library design, and trade-offs between these or other issues. Top student performance in contests seems unaffected by the switch, but more students attend practice, and (subjectively) they are more rounded computer scientists, having spent more time applying classroom concepts to concrete programs. We also reflect on some general training tactics gleaned over time. These include not only technical tricks of how to approach contest problems, but also non-technical tactics for team interaction before and during a contest. 1