Computing Applications

Algorithm Visualizations and Community Building

Jack Rosenberger
CACM Senior Editor Jack Rosenberger

If you’re interested in using or developing algorithm visualizations (AVs), you should visit, a portal dedicated to creating a repository of AVs and building an active online community around them.

As Cliff Shaffer of Virginia Tech noted during his presentation of a paper, “Getting Algorithm Visualizations into the Classroom,” at SIGCSE 2011, AVs have the potential to improve the quality of computer science education, but their usage doesn’t appear to match the interest in them. Some of the problems mentioned by Shaffer include difficulties in finding quality AVs, adapting them to classroom use, and a lack of information about how to deploy them.

To counter these problems, a group of computer scientists, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, created It now contains links to more than 500 AVs, plus useful bibliographies, rating and review information, field reports and forums, and more. But what is struggling with is creating an active online community around AVs.

“Building the site was relatively easy,” says Shaffer, “but creating a community is hard.”

What needs is more input from the computer science community in terms of additional AV links, ratings and reviews, and, of course, field reports about your classroom use of AVs. “The field reports can be quite informal,” says Shaffer. “You can just post a couple of paragraphs on your classroom experience with an AV.”

If you’re interested in algorithm visualizations and/or community building, is well worth a visit, particularly when you consider the impact it could have on the future of algorithm visualization development and usage.


“Getting Algorithm Visualizations into the Classroom”
Cliff Shaffer, Monika Akbar, Alexander Joel Alon, Michael Stewart, and Stephen Edwards, Virginia Tech

SIGCSE 2011 Workshop: How to Use Algorithm Visualizations in Your Class

Jack Rosenberger is senior editor, news, of Communications of the ACM

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