The FGPE programming learning environment (PLE) allows students to solve various forms of programming exercises, mostly involving writing their own code, using just a web browser. Tests of an early version of the FGPE PLE among the students of the partners’ institutions revealed that unexpectedly many of them, for various reasons, were using mobile devices to write the code of the exercise solutions. The reasons were such as learning at places without access to a computer or having to share the computer with siblings, though this also happened in hard-to-explain circumstances, e.g. we found some students sitting next to a turned-off desktop computer and using their own smartphones instead to access the platform.
Note that while the FGPE PLE was developed as a reactive application and technically it can be used on any device, the smartphone user experience was far from perfect, because it has not been designed for mobile devices with small displays and touch control. In order to make it more convenient for mobile users, a truly mobile version had to be developed which would be more friendly to mobile users.
The project partners chose to enhance the existing application and turn it into a Progressive Web Application (PWA). Alike any other web application, yet unlike a native mobile app (whose development was also considered), PWA need not to be installed on a device prior to use, and works on any device and any operating system that provides a standards-compliant browser, which includes nearly all popular desktop and mobile devices. Compared to the standard web application, like the previous version of FGPE PLE, PWA can be added on the user’s phone main screen and can partly be used offline. The change to PWA not only has a positive effect on the mobile user experience, because users don’t have to wait for the entire app to load every single time they want to use it, and also can use the app when their Internet connection is slow and/or unreliable. Moreover, a number of small changes has been applied to the UI of FGPE PLE to remove known issues the mobile users had with it and make it more mobile-friendly.
The IO2 has been completed. The developed software is published online as open source in the GitHub FGPE repository, where it has been merged with main branch of PLE.
The expected impact of this IO is significant, as it allows for a convenient use of gamified programming courses on mobile devices, removing an annoying usability deficiency of the FGPE PLE.
You can see the PLE in action on mobile devices in the video attached below, which presents the results of the PWA version of FGPE PLE’s evaluation by mobile device users.