Analyzing Patterns in Student SQL Solutions via Levenshtein Edit Distance

Sophia Yang, Ziyuan Wei, Geoffrey L. Herman, Abdussalam Alawini

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Structured Query Language (SQL), the standard language for relational database management systems, is an essential skill for software developers, data scientists, and professionals who need to interact with databases. SQL is highly structured and presents diverse ways for learners to acquire this skill. However, despite the significance of SQL to other related fields, little research has been done to understand how students learn SQL as they work on homework assignments. In this paper, we analyze students' SQL submissions to homework problems of the Database Systems course offered at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For each student, we compute the Levenshtein Edit Distances between every submission and their final submission to understand how students reached their final solution and how they overcame any obstacles in their learning process. Our system visualizes the edit distances between students' submissions to a SQL problem, enabling instructors to identify interesting learning patterns and approaches. These findings will help instructors target their instruction in difficult SQL areas for the future and help students learn SQL more effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationL@S 2021 - Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9781450382151
StatePublished - Jun 8 2021
Event8th Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale, L@S 2021 - Virtual, Online, Germany
Duration: Jun 22 2021Jun 25 2021

Publication series

NameL@S 2021 - Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale


Conference8th Annual ACM Conference on Learning at Scale, L@S 2021
CityVirtual, Online


  • SQL
  • database education
  • levenshtein edit distance
  • online assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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