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WIP: Introducing Active Learning in a Software Engineering Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Software Engineering Division Technical Session 2

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 thirty years. His research interests include software engineering, human computer interaction, game design, social media, artificial intelligence, and computer science education.
Dr. Maxim is associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Michigan—Dearborn. 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 a 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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Sushil Acharya Robert Morris University

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Acharya joined Robert Morris University in Spring 2005 after serving 15 years in the Software Industry. His teaching involvement and research interest are in the area of Software Engineering education, Software Verification & Validation, Data Mining, Neural Networks, and Enterprise Resource Planning. He also has interest in Learning Objectives based Education Material Design and Development. Acharya is a co-author of “Discrete Mathematics Applications for Information Systems Professionals- 2nd Ed., Prentice Hall”. He is a member of Nepal Engineering Association and is also a member of ASEE, and ACM. Acharya was the Principal Investigator of the 2007 HP grant for Higher Education at RMU. In 2013 Acharya received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant for developing course materials through an industry-academia partnership in the area of Software Verification and Validation. Acharya is also the Director of Research and Grants at RMU.

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Stein Brunvand University of Michigan-Dearborn

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Stein Brunvand is an Associate Professor in the College of Education, Health, and
Human Services at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He earned his PhD in Learning
Technologies at the University of Michigan. Prior to that, he taught elementary school
for six years. Stein is interested in the enhancement of learning environments through the
integration of technology and enjoys working with preservice and practicing teachers to
learn about how this can be done more effectively. He has conducted research on the
impact of research-based professional development on the integration of technology in
K-12 classrooms and explored the use of e-portfolios in teaching and learning with
undergraduate and graduate students.

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Marouane Kessentini University of Michigan-Dearborn

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Dr. Marouane Kessentini is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Michigan Dearborn. He is the founder of the Search-Based Software Engineering (SBSE) research lab. He has several collaborations with different industrial companies on the use computational search, machine learning and evolutionary algorithms to address several software engineering problems such as software quality, software testing, software migration, software evolution, etc. He received his Phd from University of Montreal in 2012 and a Presidential BSc Award from the President of Tunisia in 2007. He received many grants from both industry and federal agencies and published around 75 papers in search-based software engineering journals and conferences, including 3 best paper awards. He has served as program committee member in several major conferences (GECCO, MODELS, ICMT, SSBSE, etc.), an editorial board member of several journals (SQJ, ASE, IST, TEVC and EMSE), and an organization member of many conferences and workshops. He was also the co-chair of the SBSE track at the GECCO2014 and GECCO2015 conferences and he is now the general chair of of the 8th IEEE Search Based Software Engineering Symposium (SSBSE2016). He is also the founder of the North American Symposium on Search Based Software Engineering, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and a guest editor of the first Special Issue on Search Based Software Engineering at the IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation Journal (2016). He is an invited speaker in the 2016 IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence (Vancouver, Canada) to give a tutorial around SBSE. He received the University of Michigan Dearborn Teaching Award, 2016.

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Many courses offered by the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) rely heavily on lectures as the primary vehicle of instruction. This is even true of courses that should emphasize student project work. Many computing (CS, IS, SE, CE) students are turned off by this sterile delivery of material prior to beginning their senior capstone projects. We have noticed gaps in students’ software engineering abilities when they begin their capstone projects. It is not always the case that students were not exposed to the necessary concepts in previous courses, but rather they that were not asked to apply these skills in project settings. In the past, instructors (and employers) have relied on just-in-time learning to fill in these holes. Many engineering educators regard experiential learning as the best way to train the next generation of engineers. This requires engineering programs to go beyond simply offering industry-based capstone courses and internships. It is our belief that introducing active learning opportunities prior to the senior year can improve software engineering education at the undergraduate level. This will also increase the pool of new professionals with practical software engineering knowledge and skills.

This paper describes the authors’ experiences introducing active learning opportunities in junior level software engineering courses. The project team critically examined existing software engineering courses at our institutions and created new active learning style instructional materials for selected course topics. We devised delivery strategies that incorporated academic research findings and industry best practices. Based on our assessment data, we believe that students participating in the activities created for our courses are better equipped with fundamental theoretical knowledge and invaluable hands-on experiences that can measurably increase their ability to contribute to the software industry.

The materials created for these courses were developed using a variation of the ADDIE (analyze, design, development, implementation, evaluation) process model. When new materials needed to be created the team attempted to determine the best mix of case-study review, role play, hands-on exercises involving work with software engineering artifacts or tools, and trigger videos to facilitate coverage of the topics. The activities used in these courses have been used successfully with several groups of students. Their evolution benefited from feedback provided by students, faculty, and our industrial partners.

Maxim, B. R., & Acharya, S., & Brunvand, S., & Kessentini, M. (2017, June), WIP: Introducing Active Learning in a Software Engineering Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29132

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