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Student Software Engineering Learning via Participation in Humanitarian FOSS Projects

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Pedagogical Approaches for Software Engineering

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1192.1 - 25.1192.13



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Paper Authors


Heidi J.C. Ellis Western New England University

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Heidi Ellis is Chair and Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Information Technology Department at Western New England College. She has a long-time interest in software engineering education and most recently has received NSF funding to investigate the use of humanitarian free and open source software to educate computing students. She is also currently participating in an NIH grant for developing database-driven software for biological NMR analysis.

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Gregory W. Hislop Drexel University

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Gregory Hislop is a professor of information science and technology and computer science at Drexel University. His interests include software engineering, computing education, and use of technology in education. Prior to joining Drexel, Hislop spent almost 20 years in IT practice with particular emphasis on products and services for enterprise systems management.

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Josephine Sears Rodriguez Western New England University

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Josephine Rodriguez is currently the Director of the Math Center at Western New England University. Additionally, for the past four years, she has also been the Associate Coordinator of Assessment at Western New England. Previously, she taught mathematics at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

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Ralph Morelli Trinity College

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Ralph Morelli has been teaching computer science at Trinity College since 1985. His areas of expertise include artificial intelligence, free and open source software, and computing education. He is one of the directors of the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) project, which seeks to get undergraduates engaged in computing through building free software that serves the public good. Most recently, he has become involved with mobile computing and is using App Inventor for Android to teach a course on "Computing with Mobile Phones" as one of the pilot courses of the CS Principles project, an NSF-funded effort by the College Board to develop a new AP exam in computer science.

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Student Learning via Participation in Humanitarian FOSS Projects Heidi J. C. Ellis Gregory W. Hislop Dept. of CS & IT College of Information Science and Western New England University Technology Springfield, MA 01119 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA AbstractFree and Open Source Software (FOSS) projects offer a rich learning environment for softwareengineering students. Student participation in such projects is in alignment with the CC 2005guidelines [1] which suggest that students gain both technical knowledge and professional skillsvia participation in a real-world project. Humanitarian FOSS (HFOSS) projects have been shownto attract students due to their altruistic goals and the possibility for the project to benefit thehuman condition [2,3].This paper presents results of a study of student perceptions of learning related to softwareengineering knowledge and skills while involved in an HFOSS project. The study involved tendifferent courses offered at four different academic institutions between summer 2008 and fallterm 2010. The courses ranged from software engineering and software development coursesaimed at juniors and seniors as well as an introductory computing course. In these courses,students participated in a range of HFOSS projects ranging from disaster managementapplications to applications to aid disabled computer users.A post-course survey that used a 5 point Likert scale ranging "strongly disagree" to "stronglyagree" was used to obtain student opinion of software engineering learning. The survey itemsaddressed both understanding of software engineering tools and approaches, as well asprofessional skills gained. In addition to reporting on learning, the paper will also discuss theimpact of gender on software engineering learning as well as comparing results from high versuslow programming experience on software engineering learning.[1] Computing Curricula 2005: Computer Science. The Overview Report. IEEE CS and ACM 2005.[2] Morelli, R.A., Tucker, A.L., Danner, N., de Lanerolle, T.R., Ellis, H.J.C., Izmirli, O., Krizanc, D., and Parker, G. 2009. Revitalizing Computing Education by Building Free and Open Source Software for Humanity, Communications of the ACM , 52, 8, (August 2009), pp. 67-75.[3] Hislop, G.W., Ellis, H.J.C., and Morelli, R.A. 2009. Evaluating Student Experiences in Developing Software for Humanity, In Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual ITiCSE, Paris, Jul. 2009.

Ellis, H. J., & Hislop, G. W., & Rodriguez, J. S., & Morelli, R. (2012, June), Student Software Engineering Learning via Participation in Humanitarian FOSS Projects Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21949

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