Free Tools to Effortlessly Implement Parsons Problems

12:00 AM on March 25, 2020 | Teaching Resources computer science

Codio has had Parsons problems for our users for a while now.

What are Parsons Problems?

Parsons problems start with scrambled lines of code. They can include distractors, extraneous and erroneous options, along with the correct lines. Students are tasked with selecting the correct lines of code and re-ordering (and indenting) them to build a fully functional code segment.

The manipulation of pre-defined code blocks is faster than writing the same code segment from scratch, and allows students to focus on concepts beyond syntax. Additionally, instead of simply having an answer marked as right or wrong, Parsons problems provide richer feedback such as indentation level, order, and if a line of code is in the solution.

Given their benefits of providing learning gains similar to writing or fixing code but in less time, and their ability to keep students engaged throughout a course, they should be more widely adopted in computing education.

However, Parsons problems are not the easiest to implement.

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A Free, Open-Source Parsons Problem Creator

Codio has provided a free, open-source graphical Parsons problem creator. By filling out the fields and clicking the generate button, you can quickly and easily create feature-rich Parsons problems. 

For a short overview of the interface and to learn how to make the a simple Parsons problem, watch this tutorial:

Additional Options for Generating Parsons Problems

If you are looking for more configuration options, check out the variable check grader and unit test grader, which use test cases to validate the student's constructed solution via functionality as opposed to hard coding.

If you teach your students in a language besides Python,  consider using the Language Translation grader.

If you want Parsons problems with graphical output, your students can draw shapes and designs with the Turtle Grader.

You can host your created Parsons problems for free on Github using our template repo. Simply fork the template, set Github pages to your master branch and copy-paste from the generator!

If you are interested in hosting these Parsons problems inside Codio, you can seamlessly integrate them into instructional material, lab assignments or tests.

Additionally, Codio tracks student performance on assessments. Our Learning Insights feature provides a graphical representation of student progress on Parsons problems as well as our many other auto-graded assessment items.

Ready to take advantage of our free, open-source Parsons Problem generator? Get in touch with us to schedule a demo, and create your free instructor account now!

Joshua Ball

Joshua is Codio's Vice President of Marketing.