Meet GPTutor: A ChatGPT-Powered Programming Tool For Code Explanation Provided As A VSCode Extension

In recent years, the need for competent programmers has increased the number of people learning to code. However, a teacher shortage makes it difficult to create tailored learning experiences. Students sometimes need help with novel programming languages and difficult code samples. Natural Language Generation (NLG) models, such as ChatGPT, transform programming education by providing tailored training. These models comprehend difficult programming ideas and deliver human-like explanations. NLG provides learners access to personalized lectures, code examples, and personalized explanations.

In this context, a research team from Taiwan recently published a paper to introduce  GPTutor. GPTutor, a ChatGPT-powered programming tool, is a Visual Studio Code extension that leverages the capabilities of the ChatGPT API to provide comprehensive explanations for programming code. The main idea of the proposed tool is to utilize NLG models as programming tutors to provide code explanations. By leveraging the OpenAI ChatGPT API, GPTutor retrieves pertinent code and provides highly precise and concise explanations. Existing NLG applications have limitations in offering comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date descriptions for programming code. GPTutor aims to overcome these limitations and provide concise and accurate code explanations by analyzing the source code.

The source code for GPTutor is freely available on GitHub and has been successfully published on the Visual Studio Code Extension Marketplace. Users install the extension, set their OpenAI API key, and select the GPT model if desired. They can then hover over a code block in the supported language (currently Move) to receive explanations, comments, or audits for the selected code. Students, programming teachers, and coding boot camp instructors have all expressed satisfaction with GPTutor’s user-friendly interface and its capacity to deliver adequate code explanations. Users are especially taken aback by GPTutor’s ability to provide pertinent source code for functions in prompts, resulting in more thorough explanations. In addition, comparative evaluations demonstrate that GPTutor outperforms Vanilla ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot in delivering accurate code explanations.

The authors of the paper propose several areas of future work for GPTutor. One key focus is enhancing performance and personalization by applying prompt programming techniques. This involves optimizing prompts and employing heuristic search methods to identify relevant code, with the ultimate goal of providing personalized explanations and an enhanced user experience. Furthermore, the authors plan to evaluate the effectiveness of GPTutor in real-world scenarios by observing student interactions with the tool during programming assignments. This evaluation will involve collaborating with coding course lecturers and utilizing appropriate analysis techniques to assess the relationship between student grades and the frequency of GPTutor usage.

In conclusion, GPTutor is a ChatGPT-powered programming tool that addresses the challenges in programming education by providing comprehensive code explanations. It has received positive feedback from users, and future work includes enhancing performance and personalization through prompt programming techniques. The effectiveness of GPTutor will be evaluated in real-world scenarios. GPTutor continues to evolve as a valuable tool for programming education.

GPTutor will be evaluated in real-world scenarios to measure its impact on student learning outcomes. Observing how students interact with the tool during programming assignments and analyzing the correlation between grades and GPTutor usage frequency will validate its effectiveness as an educational tool.


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Mahmoud is a PhD researcher in machine learning. He also holds a
bachelor's degree in physical science and a master's degree in
telecommunications and networking systems. His current areas of
research concern computer vision, stock market prediction and deep
learning. He produced several scientific articles about person re-
identification and the study of the robustness and stability of deep
networks.

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