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Analyzing Communications Activities In Student Software Projects

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Software Engineering Teaching Methods and Practice

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.214.1 - 11.214.9



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Paper Authors


Frank Tsui Southern Polytechnic State University

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Frank Tsui received his PhD in computer and information science from Georgia Tech and has worked more than 30 years in the software industry. He is currently an associate professor of software engineering at Southern Polytechnic State University.

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Orlando Karam Southern Polytechnic State University

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Orlando Karam received his PhD in computer science from Tulane University and is currently an assistant professor in computer science at Southern Polytechnic State University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Analyzing Communications Activities in Student Software Projects


It is well recognized that communications among the team members play an important part in the success of team projects1. This paper examines and characterizes the amount of communications that take place in the different activities and phases of software development projects. An important set of activities, project management, is also included in our study.

Previous research2 has shown that team communications and team performance has a curvilinear relationship. Several studies7,8 have shown that effective communication is related to success in information technology projects. Some preliminary data in Tsui’s paper3 has shown that the software project team with the most technical problems and least amount of leadership displayed the lowest amount of e-mail messages and volume of communications per team member. In Dutoit and Bruegge’s paper4 it is shown that communications artifacts generated by the software team can provide further insight into software development process and methodologies. The forms of communication have also been studied, and there is strong belief that the most effective form of communications for software development is face-to-face 5, 6.

We studied the communication activities among student team members who were given a software project to manage and complete. Nine student teams were studied. Each team was composed of four team members. These were relatively small teams where one might wonder if communications is an important factor as in large software project teams. While each team developed slightly different solutions, the project problem was the same. In other words, they were given the same requirements. The tools and process utilized by these teams were also very similar. Each team essentially performed requirements analysis, detailed design and code, and unit and functional testing. They all performed three major activities related to direct software development. In addition, each team prepared a project plan, presented a weekly status report, and a final project report. This set is considered indirect activities.

Three basic forms of communications were utilized by all the project teams.

- face-to-face meetings - telephone - e-mails

All communications are recorded in terms of person-minutes. Thus if three team members met for 20 minutes, the amount of communications is recorded as 60 person- minutes. Two people talking over the telephone for 5 minutes is recorded as 10 person- minutes. In the case of e-mails, only the construction and sending of the e-mail time by the author is recorded. For this study, no consideration was given to how many people

Tsui, F., & Karam, O. (2006, June), Analyzing Communications Activities In Student Software Projects Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--184

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