Tower of Hanoi - Richard Cole

Richard Cole – Blended Learning for Basic Algorithms


Professor Richard Cole (Courant-Computer Science) developed instructional videos for his CSCI UA-0310 Basic Algorithms class, which introduces future computer scientists to the process of designing efficient and adaptable algorithms.  The videos detailed core concepts and reviewed points of confusion.

Learning objectives

  • Leverage instructional videos to scaffold students’ understanding of core topics
  • Increase engagement as students learn challenging material
  • Highlight points of confusion
  • Allow students to access materials anywhere, anytime (supports just-in-time learning)

In this example of blended learning that combines online materials and face-to-face instruction, Professor Cole recorded videos on key concepts known to challenge students in the past.  This meant that he strategically created videos based on level of concept difficulty rather than creating videos for every single topic.  Students were free to consult videos as many times as needed and at their own pace.  After the release of the first batch of videos, Dr. Cole conducted a formative assessment to gauge how students were using the videos.

Student experience

  • Watch videos as many times as needed
  • Have flexibility on which topics on which to concentrate

Technology resources

  • Video editing software, for producing videos
  • Tablet for real-time annotations and drawing
  • NYU Stream, to store video lectures


Video Repository:

Results from a student survey indicated that:

  • 35% of respondents viewed the videos before the topic was presented
  • 100% of respondents viewed the videos after the topic was presented
  • 100% of respondents say they would be interested in having access to videos on additional topics
  • 94% of respondents thought the videos were helpful or very helpful
  • 41% of respondents used the videos as their primary reference materials and 50% used both textbooks and the videos; 0% used the textbook only as their primary reference material
  • 61% of respondents would have liked some way to self-assess (test) their comprehension of the videos (this was prior to the capacity of NYU Stream to deliver in-video assessments)

Selected student responses:

“The videos are a great supplement to the lectures. I personally watch them after the lectures and find them very useful to review and strengthen my knowledge of the material presented, which makes them especially helpful when I do the weekly problem sets.”

“Videos are great and very helpful for explaining the basic concepts of the lecture. I would like it if the video explained some more difficult concepts as well like sample questions that we do during recitation.”

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