New tools may serve as virtual tutors for students in coding classes

Steve Oney

Steve Oney, assistant professor of information.

Getting help in programming courses outside of instructors’ office hours can be difficult, but a new tool called “” may help change that. Steve Oney, assistant professor of information at the U-M School of Information (UMSI) and of electrical engineering and computer science at the College of Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation grant of $174,981 for his project, “Designing Scalable Help Tools for Programming Courses.”

“The growing demand for programming skills has led to an influx of new learners in programming courses,” says Oney. But providing effective, personalized help, especially in large courses, is a challenge, Oney says. Office hours are ideal, but not every student can come to office hours, and it can be difficult to find help for everyone who comes. His tool includes features, like the ability to “point” at different parts and versions of code. Oney hopes these and other chat.code features will make it possible to seek and give help online more easily. 

Author: Sheryl James, School of Information

Sheryl is a public relations specialist with the School of Information. You can reach her at