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WIP: Engaging Software Engineering Students in Synchronous and Asynchronous On-line Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Software Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Division

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Paper Authors


Bruce R. Maxim University of Michigan - Dearborn Orcid 16x16

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Bruce R. Maxim has worked as a software engineer, project manager, professor, author, and consultant for more than forty years. His research interests include software engineering, human computer interaction, game design, social media, artificial intelligence, and computer science education.
Dr. Maxim is Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Michigan—Dearborn and the Nattu Natarajan Professor of Engineering. He established the GAME Lab in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. He has published a number of papers on computer algorithm animation, game development, and engineering education. He is coauthor of best-selling introductory computer science and software engineering texts. Dr. Maxim has supervised several hundred industry-based software development projects as part of his work at UM-Dearborn.

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Thomas Limbaugh University of Michigan - Dearborn

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B.S. Computer & Information Science, University of Michigan - Dearborn. Currently a graduate student at University of Michigan - Dearborn and working as a research assistant and grader. Experience and coursework in native iOS development, C, C++, Java, Kotlin, Python, Objective-C and Swift.

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Many courses offered by the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) rely heavily on lectures as the primary delivery vehicle. This is true also, of courses that contain a significant project component. In the past, capstone project work has exposed gaps in the software engineering skills of some upper-level students. Even when previously exposed to the necessary concepts, these students may not have been required to apply these skills in project settings. A large number of engineering educators regard experiential learning as the best way to train the next generation of engineers. In recent years, the authors’ face to face software engineering course delivery has emphasized active learning techniques. The authors have noticed higher levels of engagement when students participate in class activities involving games, discussions, group activities, and peer reviews than when they are simply listening to lectures. Covid19 restrictions forced the online delivery of all courses at our university this year. The authors did not want to return to the use of lectures as the only content delivery method in online software project courses.

Often, activities developed for face to face delivery of software engineering topics cannot be used without modification in either synchronous or asynchronous online courses. The authors felt it was desirable to create activities that engaged online students and allowed them to experience a level of active learning comparable to the experiences enjoyed by the face to face students. Soft skills are important for engineering professionals. The authors wanted to provide opportunities for online students to develop their soft skills by encouraging asynchronous online students to work with students enrolled in a synchronous online section of the same course.

This paper describes the authors’ experiences using active learning materials in an online software engineering course. This course was offered both synchronously and asynchronously. The project team critically examined existing active learning materials used for face to face delivery and adapted them for online course delivery. The online materials created for this course were developed using a variation of the ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate) process model. The team attempted to determine the best mix of case-study review, role play and hands-on exercises creating software engineering artifacts, working with tools, and trigger video discussions to facilitate coverage of the topics. The online delivery strategies we devised are based on current academic research findings on engineering education.

Students registered to take the online software engineering course either synchronously (with a weekly online class meeting) or asynchronously (without a weekly class meeting). All students were taught by the same instructor, given the same graded assignments, and worked together on project teams. The team members were organized by the students themselves from a pool of both synchronous and asynchronous students. The authors monitored the levels of student engagement in each group. Based on our initial assessment data, we believe that students attending synchronous class meetings were slightly more engaged in the course activities than those who did not.

Maxim, B. R., & Limbaugh, T. (2021, July), WIP: Engaging Software Engineering Students in Synchronous and Asynchronous On-line Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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