June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Software Engineering Constituent Committee
15.1207.1 - 15.1207.13
The Benefits of Transparency in Managing Software Engineering Capstone Projects
This paper describes the impact of an agile process support environment in helping faculty manage software engineering capstone projects and the learning outcomes associated with the capstone experience. Software engineering capstone projects are notoriously time-consuming to manage for faculty mentors. Team projects often fall behind due to the inexperience of the students and the external pressures they face. They may be accustomed to performing heroic acts on prior individual class projects, and think they can be successful this way again. But in a significantly sized real-world team project, they find out too late that this approach will not work. Students remain successful often by significant effort on the part of a faculty mentor. The mentor may setup a process infrastructure to enables project monitoring. Mentors may find themselves asking for frequent in-class project reviews, out-of-class appointments, and significant documentation. Mentoring a capstone project, while a potentially rewarding experience, can become a significant time sink and lead to faculty burnout. We are utilizing the IBM Jazz environment including the Rational Team Concert (RTC) integrated development environment (IDE) to address project management for capstone projects using the Agile/Scrum methodology. Jazz/RTC allows all stakeholders (students, sponsors, and faculty) to transparently review a process to assess project health at any point in time. Further, transparent continuous project monitoring gives mentors the ability to provide just-in-time-but-not-too-late formative feedback, as well as allow continuous assessment of learning outcomes. The ability to “see where you are” in the process, and understand how the process’ practices drive progress and completion, is an invaluable learning aid for students struggling to grasp the benefits of these methods.
Mentoring software engineering capstone projects is a challenging yet rewarding task for any motivated faculty member. On the one hand, there is no better place in which to see the fruits of one’s labor than when working alongside student teams as they “put it all together” and produce a real software product. Observing that moment where the students show they have integrated and internalized what the faculty taught them for several years offset concern that some “may never get it.” On the other hand, it is challenging for many reasons. One challenge is strictly a time management issue. Capstone project mentoring often involves meta-project management by the instructor-as-facilitator. Ensuring teams are planning, estimating, and tracking detailed work can be a laborious process, no matter what software development lifecycle (SDLC) model has been adopted. In industry, how many projects is a dedicated project manager expected to manage at a time? In academia, with expectations of working on real-world projects with real-world sponsors and deliverables, how many projects can a faculty member meta-manage in the fraction of time allocated to this responsibility? It is imperative that faculty have available tools to productively assess the ongoing progress of software engineering capstone projects.
Gary, K., & Koehnemann, H. (2010, June), The Benefits Of Transparency In Managing Software Capstone Projects Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16985
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