Academic journal article International Education Studies

A Guideline of Using Case Method in Software Engineering Courses

Academic journal article International Education Studies

A Guideline of Using Case Method in Software Engineering Courses

Article excerpt


Software Engineering (SE) education has been reported to fall short in producing high quality software engineers. In seeking alternative solutions, Case Method (CM) is regarded as having potential to solve the issue. CM is a teaching and learning (T&L) method that has been found to be effective in Social Science education. In principle, instructors should be guided appropriately in order to adopt CM in T&L. SE education however lacks of such guidelines. This paper addresses this concern by identifying the factors and their corresponding elements and conditions that contribute to the effective use of CM in T&L SE courses. The factors, elements and conditions were then collated as a framework in the form of a guideline. The factors, elements and conditions were gathered through a series of studies, namely a theoretical study, two surveys and two expert reviews. The theoretical study involved reviewing previous research, while the surveys were performed with five groups of students who experienced CM in learning SE courses. The students were from various education and work backgrounds. Two types of survey instruments were employed, which are questionnaire and group interviews. To form the guideline, the gathered data were analysed qualitatively using contents analysis. The guideline was then validated by two experts through expert reviews. There are four main factors that constitute the guideline of using CM in T&L SE courses: Case, Instructor, Student and Infrastructure. Each factor has its corresponding elements and conditions. The guideline is useful for SE instructors to adopt CM in T&L SE courses at their institutions.

Keywords: case method, empirical study, qualitative, software engineering

1. Introduction

Software products have become crucial throughout the nation's everyday life. The growth in the use of software products has indirectly demanded reliable, efficient and knowledgeable software engineers. This requires the education system to produce better trained software engineers. In order to fulfil this expectation, the education system is continuously researching for the best technique to teach future software engineers. One method that is evidently effective in Social Science education is Case Method (CM). The method is now gradually being applied in Software Engineering (SE) education. In fact, recent studies indicate that the method is as equally successful in SE domain (Garg & Varma, 2007; Jianmin & Jian, 2010).

To ensure a successful CM implementation in teaching and learning (T&L) SE courses, instructors should follow a certain guideline. The guideline should contain factors and elements that are necessary in a CM T&L environment. At present, there is a lack of such guidelines in SE education. Formulating a practical guideline requires not only a theoretical investigation but also a series of empirical work that gather evidence from users and experts. The main objective of this paper is to propose a guideline of adopting CM in T&L SE courses. The guideline was derived from a series of work including a theoretical study, two surveys and expert reviews.

This paper is organised as follows. Section 2 presents the background of CM, SE and the use of CM in SE education. Section 3 elucidates the methodology used in the study, namely the theoretical study, surveys and expert reviews. Section 4 describes the findings of the work by presenting the guideline with its descriptions whereas Section 5 explains briefly some of the validity threats. Finally, Section 6 concludes the paper with a summary that outlines the main findings and future work.

2. Background

This section contains the background information about CM, SE and the related work on using CM in SE education.

2.1 Case Method

CM is a T&L method in delivering a subject. It uses real scenarios in the form of a case study (Dooley & Skinner, 1977). CM is able to relate knowledge and actions (Volpe, 2002). …

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