Jigsaw Java: Intelligent, Automated Marking

Michael Campbell, Angela Allen, Matthew Collins

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


The popularity of Computing degrees in the UK has been increasing significantly over the past number of years. In Northern Ireland, from 2007 to 2015, there has been a 40% increase in acceptances to Computer Science degrees with England seeing a 60% increase over the same period (UCAS, 2016). However, this is tainted as Computer Science degrees also continue to maintain the highest dropout rates.
In Queen’s University Belfast we currently have a Level 1 intake of over 400 students across a number of computing pathways. Our drive as staff is to empower and motivate the students to fully engage with the course content. All students take a Java programming module the aim of which is to provide an understanding of the basic principles of object-oriented design. In order to assess these skills, we have developed Jigsaw Java as an innovative assessment tool offering intelligent, semi-supervised automated marking of code.
Jigsaw Java allows students to answer programming questions using a drag-and-drop interface to place code fragments into position. Their answer is compared to the sample solution and if it matches, marks are allocated accordingly. However, if a match is not found then the corresponding code is executed using sample data to determine if its logic is acceptable. If it is, the solution is flagged to be checked by staff and if satisfactory is saved as an alternative solution. This means that appropriate marks can be allocated and should another student have submitted the same placement of code fragments this does not need to be executed or checked again. Rather the system now knows how to assess it.
Jigsaw Java is also able to consider partial marks dependent on code placement and will “learn” over time. Given the number of students, Jigsaw Java will improve the consistency and timeliness of marking.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2016
EventCED Annual Conference - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 2016 → …


ConferenceCED Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period23/06/2016 → …


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