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  1. Virtual reality (VR) computer interfaces show promise for improving societal communication and representation of information due to their unique ability to be placed spatially around the user in three-dimensional (3D) space. This opens new possibilities for presentation and user interaction with the target information, and may be especially impactful for the education of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Simulations and visualizations have been shown in research studies to improve the efficiency of STEM learners compared to the less sensorimotor rich learning mediums of live instruction and textbook reading. Yet, learning science research into immersive computer simulation environments for educational applications remains limited. To address this research gap, we analyzed a fundamental VR interface capability, virtual environmental traversal, and its impact on participants' learning. We altered the traversal ability between two groups of STEM learners within the same virtual environment and compared their performance. Findings point that VR computer interfaces, regardless of environmental traversal, are suitable STEM learning environments, but that environmental traversal can increase learning efficiency. 
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  3. As more people turn to discretionary online tools to learn new skills such as computer programming, exploring how to better support a wide range of learners is becoming increasingly essential to train the next generation of highly skilled technology workers. In our prior work, users with high learner autonomy complained that most online resources they used to learn more programming did not provide them with the flexibility they preferred to navigate through learning materials, locking them into a set sequence of topics/concepts. To explore this, we implemented a level-jumping feature into an online educational programming game. We tested it with 350 new users, tracking their progress through the game for 7 days each. We found that those with high learner autonomy did use the level jumping feature more than those with low learner autonomy. We also found that males were more likely to use this new feature, regardless of learner autonomy level, compared to their female counterparts. Finally, we found that those with low learner autonomy ultimately completed more levels than their high autonomy counterparts, and that this was particularly true of female learners (who completed the most levels overall). Based on these findings, we believe that autonomous-supportive features such as flexible navigation may be beneficial to all users of online educational tools, and that encouraging its use by a wider group of users (particularly females), may increase positive effects. 
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  4. Female students are underrepresented in Computer Science degree programs at US colleges. This problem has resisted interventions for decades and average enrollment rates are stubbornly hovering around 18%, several success stories at selected institutions notwithstanding. Solutions to this problem require bringing in more female students and once enrolled keeping them in the program. To achieve the latter, improvements have been attempted at the curricular and pedagogical level on one hand, and on the social and community building level on the other. This paper describes a low cost approach to building a sense of community and belonging by making a Women in Computing club more "official" using a "token of belonging." Membership is made more rewarding by the promise of a conference trip 
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  5. People often learn programming in face-to-face courses or online tutorials. Interactive computer tutors---systems that provide learning content interactively---are becoming more common in online tools such as those teaching computer programming. Studies have shown that teachers, interactive computer tutors, and the combination of both are efficient and effective in teaching programming. However, there is limited understanding of the comparative perspectives of learners learning from these two different sources. We conducted an exploratory study using semi-structured interviews and recruited 20 participants with programming experience from both teachers and interactive computer tutors. Speaking with our participants, we surfaced factors that learners like and dislike from the two learning resources and discussed the strengths and weaknesses between the two. Based on our findings, we discuss implications for designs that programming educators and interactive computer tutor developers can use to improve their teaching effectiveness. 
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  6. Many people are learning programming on their own using various online resources. Unfortunately, learners using these resources often be- come disengaged or even quit when encountering an obstacle they cannot overcome without additional help. Teachers in a classroom can provide this type of help, but this may be impractical or impossible to implement in online educational settings. To address this issue, we added a visually- oriented hint system into an existing online educational game designed to teach novices introductory programming concepts. We implemented three versions of the hint system, providing equivalent information for each level of the game, adjusting the amount of interactivity between versions. The first version consisted of a static image with text showing how to solve a level in a single panel. The second version included a series of images that allowing users to scroll through hints step-by-step. The final version showed a short video allowing users to play, pause, and seek through animated hint(s). In total, we had 150 people play the game, randomly assigned to one of these three versions of the hint system. We found that users had a strong preference for the video version of the hint system, completing more levels. Based on these findings, we propose suggestions for designers of online educational tools to better support their users. 
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  7. Many people are learning programming on their own using various online resources such as educational games. Unfortunately, little is known about how to keep online educational game learners motivated throughout their game play, especially if they become disengaged or frustrated with their task. Keeping online learners engaged is essential for learning programming, as it may have lasting effects on their views and self-efficacy towards computer science. To address this issue, we created a coarse-grained frustration detector that provided users with customized, adaptive feedback to help (re)engage them with the game content. We ran a controlled experiment with 400 participants over the course of 1.5 months, with half of the players playing the original game, and the other half playing the game with the frustration detection and adaptive feed- back. We found that the users who received the adaptive feedback when frustrated completed more levels than their counterparts who did not receive this customized feedback. Based on these findings, we believe that adaptive feedback is essential in keeping educational game learners engaged, and propose future work for researchers and designers of online educational games to better support their users. 
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