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Journal of Information Systems Education

Abstract

The expansion of technical concepts into everyday business practices suggests a need for effectively teaching difficult subjects to non-technical users. This paper describes hands-on analogy, an innovative method for teaching technically difficult concepts using interactive, experiential learning activities and a gamified exercise. We demonstrate our technique by investigating Hadoop Hands On, an exercise designed to teach MapReduce. Students experienced how MapReduce functions work conceptually by envisioning students as compute and tracking nodes in a Hadoop system and playing cards as data processed to complete two tasks of varying complexity. A study of 56 students was conducted to validate the exercise and demonstrated the impact of triggered flow on perceived understanding. The main contributions of this work are 1) an alternative learning approach that communicates a technically difficult concept through analogy and 2) the demonstration of the role of flow in facilitating learning using this approach. We recommend using this approach to teach technically difficult concepts to non-technical students who can more easily comprehend the benefits of distributed computing methods interactively in a way that complements the traditional lecture approach.

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