SWECP 2006

3rd International Symposium on Software Engineering Course Projects (SWECP 2006)
www.swecp.org/2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006 (1:00pm - 4:45pm)
Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham Conference Centre (Maple Room)
Toronto, Canada

Held as part of The 16th International Conference of the IBM Centre for Advanced Studies on Collaborative Research (CASCON 2006: Oct. 16-19, 2006; Toronto, Canada)



Abstract

Creating software engineering course projects for undergraduate students is a challenging task. The instructor must carefully balance the sometimes conflicting goals of academic rigor and industrial relevance. Some of the fundamental characteristics of software engineering projects (e.g., team-based, large-scale, long-lived) are difficult to realize within the constraints of a university course in a single semester. This is particularly true when dealing with young students who may lack the real-world experience needed to appreciate some of the more subtle aspects of software engineering. This symposium will explore how educators and industry can work together to develop a more rewarding educational experience for all stakeholders involved. This symposium is a sequel to the events that were held as part of CASCON 2002 and CASCON 2005.

Keywords: software engineering, education, courses, senior design projects, students

News

Symposium Organizers

Scott Tilley
Department of Computer Sciences
Florida Institute of Technology
stilley@cs.fit.edu

Ken Wong
Department of Computing Science
University of Alberta
kenw@cs.ualberta.ca

Spencer Smith
Department of Computing and Software
McMaster University
smiths@mcmaster.ca

Symposium Description

Team-based projects are the cornerstone of many undergraduate software engineering courses. In these projects, the students learn the importance of topics such as project management and issues of scale that separate software engineering from program development. For many students, the course project is their first exposure to working in a cooperative/competitive environment – quite different from the “start hacking, work alone, and don’t talk to your friends” model that is typical of other software courses.

However, conducting such a course project is a very challenging task. The instructor must carefully balance the sometimes conflicting goals of academic rigor and industrial relevance. Some of the fundamental characteristics of software engineering projects (e.g., team-based, large-scale, long-lived) are difficult to realize within the constraints of a university course in a single semester. This is particularly true when dealing with young students who may lack the real-world experience needed to appreciate some of the more subtle aspects of software engineering.

As an example, a typical undergraduate “Introduction to Software Engineering” overview course commonly that is offered at many universities is constrained by the length of the course (usually 10-15 weeks) and the typical challenges of attempting to recreate a commercial software engineering experience in an academic setting. Nevertheless, the students are subjected to some of the same challenges that their professional counterparts often encounter, for example, working on a tight schedule, with a team that is not of their choosing, and where their reward (their grade, in this case) is not entirely in their own hands.

From an industry perspective, many employers often lament that they must provide extensive (re)training to new employees. One of the reasons given for this situation is that the students haven’t learned in school what the company considers to be important. To be sure, there will always be issues specific to the corporation that the new employee must acquire. But for software engineering, it seems odd that the projects students are given during their final years as an undergraduate are usually not indicative of the type of projects they will likely be working on in an industrial setting.

This symposium will explore how educators and industry can work together to develop a more rewarding educational experience for all stakeholders involved.

Symposium Structure

This will be a half-day event, held in a single room to accommodate the expected 25 participants. The symposium will be structured around a handful of invited presentations from recognized experts in the field, and a panel session involving a selected set of opinion makers from academia, government, and industry. For the panel session, following each brief position statement, the panelists will engage in structured discussion with the rest of the symposium participants. The idea is to foster the exchange of ideas and information in an informal setting, but with some boundaries placed on topics and time to ensure that the symposium is on schedule.

The symposium will provide an opportunity for the exchange of information related to areas including (but not limited to):

A summary document containing the workshop findings will be distributed electronically to registered participants some time after CASCON. For example, for the 2005 workshop, a summary report was published as part of the CSEE&T 2006 Conference Proceedings, published by IEEE CSE press.

Symposium Participation

The people who are likely to participate in the symposium are primarily from academia: lecturers, faculty, and students. The people most interested in this topic will be educators responsible for teaching software engineering classes in a university setting. Graduate students who have their sights set on life as an academic after they complete their Ph.D. would also find this symposium extremely useful.

Participation from industrial representatives would greatly improve the symposium’s tenor. Many companies offer their own specialized training sessions, sometimes using mock projects that are similar to the projects university students’ experience. It is only through dialog between academia and industry that the improvements can be made to this aspect of the undergraduate curriculum.

There is no requirement for any participant to be actively teaching a software engineering course; we will certainly not exclude anyone from sitting in on part of the symposium. The main requirement is an interest in improving the current situation.