Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Building Real World Domain-Specific Social Network Websites as a Capstone Project

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Building Real World Domain-Specific Social Network Websites as a Capstone Project

Article excerpt


Real world domain-specific applications have frequently been used as capstone projects in many universities (Beasley 2003; Conn 2004; Hadfield and Jensen 2007; Leidig et al. 2006; Myers 2003; Reichlmay 2006). In these projects, students frequently worked in teams to solve problems for non-profit organizations (Leidig et al. 2006) or commercial corporations (Myers 2003). These capstone projects allowed students to integrate their knowledge in computing and information technology to encompass the complete analysis, design and implementation phases of software development.

Perceived advantages of real-world capstone projects include the following:

* Provide the necessary bridge between academic study and the professional software development world (Hadfield and Jensen 2007).

* Promote the development of leadership, communications, collaboration and organizational skills that are essential in successful software development (Leidig et al. 2006; Hadfield and Jensen 2007).

* Provide a culminating and integrative educational experience that unifies diverse technologies and theories learned in the information systems or computing curricula (Clear et al. 2001).

* Foster the understanding of organizational processes for which the software is developed (Conn 2004).

Because of these perceived benefits, many universities have capstone courses that are project-oriented (Clear et al. 2001). Similarly, IS 2002, the latest undergraduate model IS curriculum developed by AIS, ACM and AITP (Gorgone et al, 2002), recommended a team-oriented project course as a core course: IS 2002.10 Project Management and Practice. More recently, in the update of the latest graduate IS model curriculum from MSIS 2000 to MSIS 2006 (Gorgone et al. 2006) , an important change was the creation of the required core course, MSIS 2006.7 Integrated Capstone.

Depending on the course objectives, capstone projects may emphasize different aspects of software development. Many software engineering capstone projects demand that students adhere to formal processes and models, such as the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) (Hadfield and Jensen 2007) , or an industrial flavored software engineering process (Conn 2004). They may span the entire software lifecycle (Beasley 2003), or focus on a specific application area such as database (Tuttle 2000). Educators have also devised different strategies to enhance student learning in capstone projects (Kumar 2006).

In summary, team-oriented capstone projects are highly beneficial and rich in diversity. Researchers and educators have created a wealth of literature on varying approaches and experiences conducting effective capstone projects. The goal of this paper is to enrich this collective knowledge by describing our experience conducting information systems capstone projects in an important and exciting application area that has not yet been explored. It is based on the work of two teams building a real-world domain-specific Social Network Site (SNS) in two sequential semesters.

The remainder of this paper is organized in the following manner. Section 2 provides background information about domain-specific SNSs. The organization and process of the capstone project course at the University of Houston-Clear Lake is detailed in Section 3, along with a discussion on metrics for measuring the effectiveness of capstone projects. Section 4 provides an overview of the domain-specific as well as general social network requirements for building a website serving a swimming team. Furthermore, it highlights why a domain-specific SNS is the most effective approach in cultivating a supportive community for the swimmers. The mentor of the project was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a high tech company who was also a board member of the swimming team. Section 5 discusses our experience in using a Content Management System (CMS), specifically Joomla, to design and implement the project. …

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