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Teaching Communication Skills In Software Engineering Courses

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Education Ideas in Software Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1196.1 - 10.1196.10



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Paper Authors

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Lonnie Welch

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Karin Sandell

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Chang Liu

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

Teaching Communication Skills in Software Engineering Courses

Chang Liu, Karin Sandell, and Lonnie Welch

Ohio University Athens, Ohio 45701, U. S. A. {liuc | sandell | welch}


Communication skills are important to software engineers. Yet, this topic is sometimes overlooked in computer science and software engineering curricula. To address this problem, we attempted to explicitly teach communication skills in a software engineering course. We experimented with a number of approaches, including lectures by the instructor, student presentations, mini-lectures mixed with in-class discussions, and other in-class activities such as student-designed scenarios. The results of these approaches were mixed. There were approaches that clearly worked better than one or more other approaches; there were also approaches to which students with different backgrounds responded differently. Overall, after taking this course, students communicated better and were more self-confident in team environments. Our experience shows that with careful planning and innovative pedagogy, we can help our students become both technically competent software engineers or computer scientists, and good team players in the same time.

1. Introduction

The vast majority of software engineers work in teams. To accomplish their tasks, they often need to communicate with technical or non-technical coworkers and clients through in-depth discussions on software requirements, design, and implementation. Clearly, communication skills are an important skill set to software engineers. Yet computer science undergraduate students, many of whom will become software engineers after they graduate, receive little training in teamwork and communication skills, especially in the context of computer science coursework and projects. As a result, many computer science students do not recognize the importance of communication and do not possess satisfactory communication skills. For example, in Spring Quarter 2004, on an anonymous comment card collected from CS456/556, a software engineering course offered at Ohio University, one student complained that: “I don’t care for the vast amount of time needed outside of the classroom not working on the ‘project’ itself.” This student was likely referring to the necessary communication with the project customer on project requirements as outside of the scope of the “project itself,” and thus not part of the learning experience. Many students compartmentalize their course experiences and thus in this case they are likely to perceive communication skills as extraneous to the subject “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Welch, L., & Sandell, K., & Liu, C. (2005, June), Teaching Communication Skills In Software Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14627

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