Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Innovation and Scaling Up Agile Software Engineering Projects

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Innovation and Scaling Up Agile Software Engineering Projects

Article excerpt

Introduction

Innovation in education often works best when it is driven by academic ownership of prototype projects. Innovation in teaching and learning through technology is desirable as it leads to improved learning in students and improved collaboration between students and their teaching staff (Alexander, 2008).

Scalable tools are required to address certain technical problems in general in educational institutions and in software engineering courses in particular. There must be a balance between innovative academic prototypes and centralised scalable tools that may attract better centralised support from the faculty technical services group to avoid tension between technical services and academics.

Wikipedia defines "scalability" as follows: "In telecommunications and software engineering, scalability is a desirable property of a system, a network or a process, which indicates its ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner, or to be readily enlarged" (Wikipedia, 2008).

Current students need to be trained to work as distributed teams as offshore software development (OSD) is gaining popularity in a number of IT organisations (Petkovic, 2006). Even without OSD, students in the current internet age demand the facility to work on capstone team projects as distributed teams and able to access central server and other resources from their homes. Working as distributed teams from their homes enable them to simulate some of the features of offshore software development and practice the agile method.

Offshore software development is a form of outsourcing which has to take on board the complexity of developing software systems when the contracted consultants reside in different countries (Kornstadt & Sauer, 2007). OSD is becoming increasingly common in industry. Vendors such as IBM Rational are promoting their Jazz technology platform (www.jazz.net) as an extensible team collaboration platform aimed at integrating people, process and assets across software development projects. University researchers in the U.S.A, Canada and Germany have received Jazz grants in 2008 to assist them with preparing student teams' skills in managing projects which are distributed across geographic and institutional boundaries www.thetartan.org/2008/3/24/news/software). CollabNet (www.collab.net) is a widely used collaborative platform (www.tigris.org) that supports globally distributed software development teams. Recently, Chair of SE, Prof Meyer at ETH, Zurich and his group have started offering distributed and outsourced SE projects for student teams over several universities to collaborate (http://se.ethz.ch/teaching/2008-H/dose). They discuss their experience with student teams in multi-site projects between universities as an academic approximation of a globalized software development as practised in the industry (Meyer & Piccioni, 2008).

In this paper, we report on how our innovative projects for supporting the SE projects in undergraduate programs at Monash University have evolved and have been scaled up to support agile SE capstone projects. We report on our work on adapting our software engineering capstone projects to distributed agile teams. Our approach has evolved from our earlier customised work with a project management, code management and process-oriented paradigm to a more integrated open source tool-based approach.

Since 2002, BSE students at Monash University undertake a full year (2 semester) capstone project unit where they work in teams on a large software project for a client. The clients are from the industry or research organisation. The objective of the final year SE capstone project is to expose the students to real-life project scenarios and current (global) SE development practices. The teams of 4-5 Monash final year SE students are formed at the beginning of the year. Each team is assigned a new project with a Monash supervisor and an external client. …

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