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Using GroupWare to support software engineering student group projects Sarah Drummond Department of Computer Science University of Durham.

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Presentation on theme: "Using GroupWare to support software engineering student group projects Sarah Drummond Department of Computer Science University of Durham."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using GroupWare to support software engineering student group projects Sarah Drummond Department of Computer Science University of Durham

2 2 Content What is groupware? SEG (Software Engineering Group projects) –using a commercial groupware tool - adapted and built a virtual environment What were our experiences: successes, problems Comparison between two groupware systems What happens next …..

3 3 What is Groupware Groupware is technology designed to facilitate the work of groups The term is ordinarily used to refer to a specific class of technologies relying on modern computer networks, such as , newsgroups, videophones, or chat. What about usability issues?

4 4 Groupware categorised Same Time (synchronous) face-to-face Video conferencing Chat Same Place (co-located) Different Place (distance) Different Time (asynchronous) Shared computers Workflow systems Two primary dimensions: Users working together at the same time – real time (sync) or different times (async) Users working together in the same place (collocated or face-to-face) or in different places (non-collocated or distance).

5 5 Groupware offers significant advantages to facilitate communication: make it faster, clearer, more persuasive also enables communication where it wouldn't otherwise be possible to enable telecommuting - cuts down on travel costs to bring together multiple perspectives and expertise to form groups with common interests where it wouldn't be possible to gather a sufficient number of people face-to- face to save time and cost in coordinating group work to facilitate group problem-solving to enable new modes of communication, such as anonymous interchanges or structured interactions

6 6 Software Engineering Group (SEG) projects at Durham Development of software through the phases of the software lifecycle 15 week duration Approx. 89 students = 14 groups of 6 or 7 One tutor/customer/consultant per group Strict deadlines for group deliverables (written in HTML) at each phase.

7 7 SEG philosophy Industrial-like conditions - hard deadlines, groups treated as “companies”, staff act as “customer”, weekly timesheets, department provides bookable “offices” in SE Lab, “CS, Ltd. company standards” based on IEEE standards, project support environment and tools Common project across all groups with associated practicals on common aspects - cost estimation, risk analysis, group organisation, project planning, configuration management, traceability, and introducing and providing groupware to support group work The project is technically challenging, but the emphasis on SEG is broader than the technical development of deliverables. Group working and management are key foci.

8 8 Support for SEG Dedicated SEG collaborative working laboratory “SEGWorld”Creation of a virtual environment for student group work “SEGWorld” based on BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work) On-line SE/SEG work materials and tutorial

9 9 What is BSCW? A document storage and retrieval system allowing collaboration over the web supporting work of widely dispersed groups Users access system using standard user- name/password and server responds with a list of workspaces the user can enter. Each workspace (public or private) contains a number of shared objects Actions can be performed on these objects by workspace members

10 10 What is BSCW (2) Supports independent platforms via a WWW interface A notification service keeps users aware of each others activities Hierarchical file structure Runs on UNIX (incl. Linux) and NT

11 11 BSCW supporting SEG Central repository for work artifacts (including SE individual tasks) Simple work-flow mechanism Awareness of other members activities (historical trail) Functionality to support some SE activities (document creation/editing/versioning) Practical experience of using groupware

12 12 Successes Provides a simple work-flow mechanism An awareness of group activities for both members and staff has proved very useful Students have gained valuable experience using groupware; can appreciate the design challenges in such systems Additional functionality through dev. of CGI scripts for on-line marking Introduction of CSCW module in curriculum covering CSCW applied to SE

13 13 Problems Initial student motivation poor due to - lack of experience; poor response times of server; provision of additional UNIX group work file space Security issues resulted in students not being able to access SEGWorld from outside the University Short-term maintenance requires support - both administrative and technical – this has been resolved Long-term evolution requires committed management and sufficient resources - new server purchased and response time improved. Do we carry on with BSCW?

14 14 BSCW vs. Blackboard University has supported campus wide use of Blackboard (Durham University Online or DUO) DUO is an integrated learning environment offering not only facilities to structure learning content (web-pages, lecture notes, CAL applications, audio, video clips), but also provide student management, communication and assessment tools, and a range of other useful functions SEG moved from BSCW to DUO……

15 15 SEG’s using DUO…. What happened? “Groupware is any type of software designed for groups and for communication” Excellent “one stop shop” Has features to support some group interaction e.g. file exchange, but no configuration management Students hardly used DUO – Unix group file space preferred Inflexible in supporting submission of deliverables BSCW is generic groupware designed specifically to support groups. DUO is generic groupware designed to do many functions with group support being minor – NEITHER are designed for SE activities Where do we go from here …..?

16 16 Conclusion Have experience of synchronous and asynchronous groupware from both a distributed and local perspective Both have been relatively successful but problems both technical and administrative did occur New staff – new ideas! University wide introduction of DUO DUO does not sufficiently support group interaction whereas BSCW does – neither are designed with SE activities in mind DUO will be used this academic year as a repository for SE material – year long study of their use of this system will be undertaken Students do gain valuable experience using these technologies

17 17 Further information SEG and JTAP publications: BSCW: Blackboard:


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