Assessing the benefits of synchronization-adorned sequence diagrams: Two controlled experiments


Learning about concurrency and synchronization is difficult for novices. In prior work, we developed saUML, a refinement of UML sequence diagrams, to address these difficulties and found them, to be beneficial when compared to text-only presentations. This paper compares saUML to standard UML sequence diagrams to judge their relative effectiveness in enhancing a novice programmer's understanding of programs with different levels of synchronization complexity. One experiment compared the two notations when used to understand programs of low synchronization complexity, as judged by their use of only simple synchronization primitives, such as mutex locks. Here, a beneficial trend was observed, but it did not rise to the level of statistical significance. A second experiment compared the two notations on similar tasks but on programs with more complex synchronization constructs, in this case condition synchronization using primitives, such as wait and signal. Here, a significant benefit (p < 0.05) was found to exist. © 2008 ACM.

Publication Title

SOFTVIS 2008 - Proceedings of the 4th ACM Symposium on Software Visualization