Databases are important in many disciplines for the storage and retrieval of information. However, database courses for undergraduates are typically only available as an upper-level elective course for computer science or business majors. This project builds on the successes of an earlier research project that introduced database concepts to students in many majors through animations using a visual and dynamic presentation with images and color. Visualization is an effective technique for instruction because it engages student interest and enhances their learning. In the earlier project, two animations were developed: one to introduce what databases are and a second to introduce how to retrieve the information stored in a database by asking questions, called queries. The goal for this project is for educators in diverse academic disciplines to incorporate the animations in their existing courses. To support this goal, the animations are customizable to different examples for various majors. Another goal is to develop an additional animations on how to organize data for storage in a database using visual diagrams. An enhancement to all animations is planned to provide a built-in quizzing mechanism so that the student can receive immediate feedback on what they are learning. The quizzes encourage student to learn and review the animation and do not to provide a grade to an instructor. Another goal of the project is to develop visual tools to assist instructors with the customization of the animation example to their discipline. As part of this project, the animations will be customized to additional STEM domains, specifically statistics, forensics, and ecology.
This research is expected to provide valuable contributions for improving STEM learning by providing customizable animations with self-assessment that introduce students from many majors to various database concepts. Another significant contribution is the investigation of a customizable self-assessment framework to incorporate within it the extensible animations for these database concepts. This self-evaluation is a necessary component for providing formative feedback to a student progressing thru these database concepts using the animations to improve their comprehension. Finally, the ability to customize the animations and the assessment questions is an important component of the research. This customization process uses XML technologies within the development environment, thus developing visual tools to assist in the customization of the animations for other disciplines.