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Software Development Laboratory: A Retrospective

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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 Curriculum Components

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1136.1 - 11.1136.9



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Paper Authors


Deepti Suri Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Deepti Suri is an Associate Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). She primarily teaches courses in the Software Engineering program.

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Mark Sebern Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Mark Sebern is a Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Milwaukee School of Engineering(MSOE) and is the Program Director for MSOE’s undergraduate Software Engineering (SE) program.

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

Software Development Laboratory: A Retrospective

Abstract At Milwaukee School of Engineering(MSOE), undergraduate students work on a one academic year (three quarters) Software Development Laboratory (SDL) course sequence in their junior/senior year. SDL was created with a vision of providing a “real-life” team experience to students where they could unite theory and practice while working on large scale ongoing projects in the context of a standardized development process. This paper presents a retrospective on the pedagogical philosophy of the SDL and the specific challenges that we are currently facing in executing this philosophy. This paper is meant to start a debate in the SE education community on whether the issue is the philosophy itself, its implementation or how we are measuring (or not measuring) “success”. This paper most likely raises more questions than it answers.

1. Introduction

When the term “Software Engineering” was coined in 1969[10], the software development community recognized the fact that production of software is a complex undertaking. Software Engineering (SE) educators have been struggling since then to provide opportunities in an academic setting where the students can apply SE practice and process to realistic development efforts[13]. According to Humphrey[4] the concept of software process is not so much concerned with particular tools or methodology; instead, the emphasis is on well defined and controlled processes that can be supported by appropriate methods and tools[6]. Software practice, on the other hand indicates the actual artifacts that are delivered while implementing the process. When student experience with SE process and practice is limited to individual courses, typically by involving internal or external client, they may not gain the desired knowledge and skill. In these courses each team of students typically starts from scratch, constraining the size of the software system that is developed and increasing the risk that the final product may be incomplete or non-functional[13]. There is a general consensus in the SE education community that students need some project experience that extends for more than one academic term[2][12]. An alternative approach implemented by Moore[8][9] in the Real World Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a project course sequence in which large-scale projects are addressed by a series of student teams over an extended period of time. In this model, less experienced students can work on a large system that is reasonably well defined and documented by previous teams; while more experienced teams can initiate new systems or major enhancements. Inspired by Moore’s vision of creating a “level 5” (referring to the original Capability Maturity Model published by the Software Engineering Institute[11]) software development organization in an academic environment, and encouraged by other educators, the MSOE SE faculty members decided to incorporate a three-quarter (one academic year) software

Suri, D., & Sebern, M. (2006, June), Software Development Laboratory: A Retrospective Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--614

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