June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.562.1 - 12.562.10
Document Management in Team-Oriented, Project-Based Courses: Evaluating a LTEX/Subversion-Based Approach A
This paper discusses a low-cost approach to the implementation of a document versioning system for technical reports. Several alternatives have been considered, including commercial document collaboration services such as NextPage 2™ (NextPage, Inc.) and SharePoint™ (Microsoft Inc.), open-source versioning applications such as Subversion or CVS, wikis, and free web-based services such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets (formerly Writely). This paper explores these alternatives and then focuses on a versioning system-based solution as the approach judged most appropriate for our requirements.
2 Introduction and Background
Most engineering and technology programs place a high value on team-based assignments and projects. At the University of Detroit Mercy, a written project report is often one of the required deliverables from each team. When the size of the team exceeds two or three, collaborative report writing becomes problematic. Ad hoc processes aimed to keep track of who is working on what, and which version is actually the correct current version often break down, and chaos ensues. It is also difﬁcult for an instructor to ﬁnd clear evidence of an individual’s contribution to the report.
The typical document revision cycle for a student team goes something like this: 1. Student A creates a draft outline of the document in Word and includes a draft of the section for which he/she is responsible. 2. Student A e-mails the document to teammates, usually with some indication as to whose turn it is to revise the document (Student B). Problems arise if more than one person tries to revise the original document. In such cases, merging the changes from several revised documents is not always straightforward. 3. After adding other content and/or revising Student A’s content, Student B e-mails the document to the next team member. 4. Eventually, the document comes back to Student A, and another cycle of revision can begin. Students often wait until the last minute to begin project reports, and this ad hoc system often breaks down. A team member may go missing just when teammates are waiting for an e-mail with revisions from her/him. It often falls to the team leader (or Student A in the above scenario) to plug as many gaps as possible at the last minute, based on what may be a limited knowledge of the details of the part of the project in question. This often results in project reports that read as though they were slapped together at the last minute (because they were).
Changing the revision cycle so that all team members can work simultaneously on the document may not prevent the last-minute scramble to write the report, but it can address the delays that are introduced in waiting for the document to travel sequentially among the team members.
Yost, S., & Krishnan, M. (2007, June), Document Management In Team Oriented, Project Based Courses: Evaluating A Latex/Subversion Based Approach Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/1659
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