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A Re-look at the Introduction to Software Engineering Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Software Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Division

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Paper Authors


James R Vallino Rochester Institute of Technology (COE)

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Jim Vallino has academic and industrial experience across a broad range of engineering disciplines. His academic training includes a B.E. in mechanical engineering, a M.S. in electrical and computer engineering, and after more than 16 years in industry, received a M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science. While in industry, he worked in small and large companies doing product development and industrial research. His responsibilities included both hardware and software development at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Siemens Corporate Research, and AVL, including microcode for a graphics processor, real-time medical image processing, and data acquisition and communications protocols for semiconductor process control. Since 1997, he has been a faculty member in Rochester Institute of Technology's Department of Software Engineering including the position of Department Chair. His professional interests are in the engineering of software for real-time and embedded systems. He was a recipient of RIT's 2010 Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching.

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Bryan Basham Software Alchemy (with RIT)

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I am a Software Consultant, Developer, Application Architect and Educator with over 40 years of software development experience and 20 years of experience in web technologies and Java open source frameworks.

I have worked as a professional Software Engineer as well as a Courseware Developer for (formerly) Sun Microsystems, Inc. My collaboration with RIT started in 2014 as an IAB member and adjunct instructor. I teach SWEN-261 "Introduction to Software Engineering" and SWEN-262 "Design of Application Subsystems" (aka the Design Pattern class).

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The Introduction to Software Engineering course is a fundamental course in not just software engineering programs, but also in computer science, computer engineering, and other computing programs. In many respects, the design of this course is more important for the other computing programs that require it than for the software engineering program because this is often the only exposure to software engineering principles that the non-software engineering students get. To address perennial student complaints about the course, and concerns raised by our Industrial Advisory Board, the faculty decided that we should take a relook at our Introduction to Software Engineering course. This course is the one in our curriculum that we have changed the most often, at least 6 times in the 20 year history of our program. We were continually balancing multiple requirements for the course including it needing to be an introduction to the breadth of software engineering, and a significant team project experience for the students. In reviewing the course's history, we decided that the reason this course was changed so frequently is that with each redesign we always started with the same basic premises for the course, namely, it needed to provide a broad overview of the software engineering discipline, and it would use one of the classic software engineering textbooks that covers all of those areas. The relook dropped both of those requirements. This paper describes the approach we used for developing this new version of our Introduction to Software Engineering course and the topics that are covered. Using an engineering approach to design the course, we set requirements for the topics to be distributed as 35% design, 35% process, 15% teamwork, and 15% communications. We describe the types of web-based resource material the course uses in place of a required textbook. The paper describes the requirements we placed on our web-based project and the particular project in use. The course ran in two pilot sections in spring 2017, and rolled out to the full offering of the course to approximately 250 students in fall 2017. Goals for the relook were to reduce the student complaints about the course, which we felt were valid complaints, while introducing the students to the most important concepts in software engineering, and to contemporary software development practices and tools. We will present our assessment of our achievement of these goals which resulted in receiving none of the prior complaints from students, and receiving thanks for how well the course material prepared students for the job interviews that they went on.

Vallino, J. R., & Basham, B. (2018, June), A Re-look at the Introduction to Software Engineering Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29718

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