Hybrid Java: The creation of a Hybrid Programming Environment

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Mark Noone
Aidan Mooney
Keith Nolan


This article details the creation of a hybrid computer programming environment combining the power of the text-based Java language with the visual features of the Snap! language. It has been well documented that there exists a gap in the education of computing students in their mid-to-late teenage years, where perhaps visual programming languages are no longer suitable and textual programming languages may involve too steep of a learning curve. There is an increasing need for programming environments that combine the benefits of both languages into one.

Snap! is a visual programming language which employs “blocks” to allow users to build programs, similar to the functionality offered by Scratch. One added benefit of Snap! is that it offers the ability to create one’s own blocks and extend the functionality of those blocks to create more complex and powerful programs. This will be utilised to create the Hybrid Java environment. The development of this tool will be detailed in the article, along with the motivation and use cases for it.

Initial testing conducted will be discussed including one phase that gathered feedback from a pool of 174 first year Computer Science students. These participants were given instructions to work with the hybrid programming language and evaluate their experience of using it. The analysis of the findings along with future improvements to the language will also be presented.


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How to Cite
Noone, M., Mooney, A., & Nolan, K. (2021). Hybrid Java: The creation of a Hybrid Programming Environment. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.22554/ijtel.v5i1.67
Original Research (Extended Report)
Author Biographies

Mark Noone, Maynooth University

Mark Noone is a University Tutor in the department of Computer Science at Maynooth University since 2019. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering. His work within the department involves the running of the Computer Science Centre, a supportive environment where students can get free one-on-one tuition in the modules they are struggling with. He is also monitoring the progress of the Leaving Certificate Computer Science curriculum. He is working towards a PhD entitled "VisTex: An Investigation on the Role of Visual and Textual Languages when Learning to Program". This topic is focused on whether visual languages and textual languages provide differing outcomes for students at the early stages of their education, and whether some hybrid form of these languages could provide an alternative CS1 solution.

Aidan Mooney, Maynooth University

Aidan Mooney is a lecturer in the department of Computer Science at Maynooth University. He is the first year coordinator and has been teaching CS1 for many years. His research interests lie in the areas of Computer Science Education, Eye-tracking, Access learning and Image Processing. He is the manager of the Computer Science Centre at Maynooth University.

Keith Nolan, Technological University Dublin, Tallaght Campus

Keith Nolan is an Associate Lecturer in the department of Computing in Technological University, Dublin, Tallaght Campus. His primary area of teaching is IT Scripting and Automation and Management Science. In addition, he has a strong interest in the teaching of Software Development (CS1 and CS2: C#, Java and Python). In addition to his current role in TUD, he was previously a tutor and coordinator of the Computer Science Centre at Maynooth University, an initiative set up to improve the programming skills of all first and second year programming students.