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Open Source Software To Support Student Teams: Challenges, Lessons, And Opportunities

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Conference

2008 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

IT-based Instructional Technologies

Tagged Division

Information Systems

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

13.952.1 - 13.952.11

DOI

10.18260/1-2--4226

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/4226

Download Count

37

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Paper Authors

biography

Clifton Kussmaul Muhlenberg College

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Clifton Kussmaul is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Muhlenberg College, and Chief Technology Officer for Elegance Technologies, Inc. He has a PhD from the University of California, Davis, an MS and MA from Dartmouth College, and a BS and BA from Swarthmore College. His interests include agile development, virtual teams, entrepreneurship education, and cognitive neuroscience, particularly auditory processing.

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

Open Source Software to Support Student Teams: Challenges, Lessons, and Opportunities Abstract

Team projects have a long history in education, with an extensive literature. Appropriate tools and procedures can support team projects, and open source software tools present specific opportunities and challenges. Open source software (OSS) generally refers to software that is distributed without charge and with the original source code, so that anyone can fix defects, add enhancements, or otherwise modify the software and share their changes with others. Thus, OSS can be freely installed on any number of computers, and modified by faculty and students with appropriate knowledge, but it may include less documentation, require more expertise to install and maintain, and be more difficult to evaluate than commercial alternatives. Since team projects usually involve multiple activities, teams can use multiple tools and try to make them work well together, or teams can use tools that support multiple functions. We focus on tools that can support collaboration (sharing documents and information) and coordination (keeping track of which team members are doing what tasks). In particular, we review previous work and describe recent experiences using wikis, version control systems, task tracking systems, and combinations of these tools. We describe key features, effective practices, supporting activities and assignments, and student outcomes. We also summarize best practices, lessons learned, and directions for future experimentation and development. Using OSS tools helps students learn to use new tools, exposes them to tools or types of tools they are likely to encounter in the future, and enables them to attempt and complete more ambitious projects under more realistic conditions. Like any tools, OSS requires an ongoing time investment by faculty, but helps them to diagnose and correct problems, assess student performance, and help the projects and teams adapt to other factors.

1. Introduction

Open source software (OSS) is distributed without charge and with the underlying source code, so that other software developers can fix defects, update documentation, add enhancements, or otherwise modify the software and share the changes with others. Most OSS projects consist of a small core team of developers, and a broader community of people who use the software, report defects, and support the project in other ways. As of October 2007, SourceForge.net hosted over 150,000 OSS projects, although many of them are small and have little activity.

For student team projects, OSS offers both benefits and risks. It can be freely installed on any number of computers, and it can be modified by faculty, staff, and students with appropriate knowledge. (This can even serve as the focus for software engineering courses1.) OSS can be more difficult to evaluate than commercial alternatives, which place more emphasis on sales and marketing, although the more popular projects are often reviewed online, in trade publications, or academic venues. OSS may include less documentation and require more expertise to install and maintain, although again the larger, more popular projects recognize these challenges and work to address them.

Kussmaul, C. (2008, June), Open Source Software To Support Student Teams: Challenges, Lessons, And Opportunities Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4226

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