Real Projects For Object-Oriented Design - MyWeb at WIT by wuzhenguang


									Student Satisfaction Using Real Projects For Object-Oriented and
                        Database Design


                            Lisa M. MacLean
                           Assistant Professor
               Department of Computer Science and Systems
                   Wentworth Institute of Technology
                        550 Huntington Avenue
                           Boston, MA 02115

                        Michael Werner, PhD.
                Department of Computer Science Systems
                   Wentworth Institute of Technology
                       550 Huntington Avenue
                          Boston, MA 02115
Student Satisfaction Using Real Projects For Object-Oriented and Database Design

        In this economy, computer science graduates can command starting salaries in excess of
        $50,000. Employers expect graduates to perform right out of the starting gate. It is
        increasingly important for educators to provide opportunities for students to position
        themselves for success in these demanding conditions. Also, as students entering have
        grown up with technology, they are better prepared on entering computer programs than
        previous classes, meaning educators must challenge them more and often eliminate
        beginning material. Students themselves are savvy as education consumers, and demand
        increasing value for their tuition. One way to meet all these conditions is by using real
        projects in the class as opposed to cases.

INTRODUCTION                                            with their work and have practical experience to
                                                        place on their resumes.
Software Design and Development and
Advanced Database Applications are 500-level            Some of the real projects in Software Design
courses taught at Wentworth Institute of                and Development:
Technology in Boston, MA. Introduction to
Programming logic, several programming                  1. A database for a bowling league designed to
courses, Introductory Database Systems and              track league members, set up teams for bowling
Systems Analysis and Design, are all                    meets by matching players by ability, record
prerequisites for the advanced courses. This            scores, etc.
assures a solid grounding in the concepts needed
to complete a real-life project.                        2. A database system designed to track and
                                                        report on the delivery of services to homeless
In these two classes, group projects demonstrate        people by a local shelter.
the practical application of analysis and design
techniques. The projects are built for an actual        3. A room reservation system for a non-profit
customer with the expectation that the system           retreat and conference center.
will be deployed upon completion. The project
either must be internal to the institute or else for    4. A system for the college placement office to
an external non-profit organization.                    enter job openings and make them available to
                                                        students whom were qualified access the listings
Students are expected to work in groups to              by submitting resumes and attending
produce a large-scale, fully functioning two- or        orientations.
three-tier database system. Previous course
sections were allowed to choose a case study on         5. A student information system to allow
their own. When students expressed                      students to access their transcripts, schedules,
dissatisfaction that they expended a good deal of       grades and financial status using the Internet.
effort for a project that merely went away, effort
was put forth to identify real world problems.          6. An extensible CASE system to allow future
                                                        software design students to create graphics and
In our experience the real projects generate            repositories of design data following various
much more enthusiasm, involve greater                   methodologies and generate source code.
complexity and better prepare the students who
participate in them. Students are more satisfied        All of the above projects offered good
                                                        opportunities to demonstrate object-oriented
analysis and design techniques. In each case a       design that was later used. However,
real customer was identified at the beginning        deployment was not possible when the course
and the students conducted interviews in order to    was given since the shelter had first to cobble
fix the requirements.                                together a local area network out of truckloads
                                                     of outmoded donated computer equipment.
Project Deliverables:
                                                     The retreat room reservation system resulted in
Student teams submit the work in three phases:       an outstanding database design. Implementation
                                                     failed when the students tried to use a poorly
1. Requirements Analysis & Preliminary Design        documented database management system that
2. Design                                            was advertised as producing world wide web
3. Implementation                                    data entry forms. The design will probably be
                                                     used by the retreat in the near future.
At the end of each phase the teams give a
presentation. Our program requires students to       The job listing project was completed and
take a course in technical communications, part      deployed by the Career Center at Wentworth
of which is devoted to oral presentations. Each      Institute of Technology.
student is required to participate in at least two
presentations even if English is not their native    The student information system was completed
language. Students typically use overhead            but never deployed since it was dependent on a
transparencies or PowerPoint slides for visuals.     security and authentication subsystem that was
To enhance communication, documents and              to be provided by the local computer center but
graphics must conform to a standard such as          never was.
                                                     The CASE system has gone through several
Implementation typically involves both a             incarnations over the years the course has been
database language such as Access or Oracle and       given. One of the better implementations was
an object-oriented programming language such         done using Tcl/Tk. Most recently a team did an
as Java or C++. Web applications also involve        excellent object-oriented design for it but
HTML and often Perl scripts. As a course             foundered when they tried to implement the
requirement, teams need to implement the main        graphics editor using the Microsoft Foundation
functionality of the system, but not exceptional     Classes. The learning curve was simply too
usages or extensive data validation. Of course       steep for them to master MFC in one semester.
the real projects need to be completely
implemented and thoroughly tested to be useful.      Some of the real projects Advanced Database
                                                     Applications students have done:
What happened with these projects?
                                                     Projects were originally identified for two
The bowling league project was completed and         nearby nonprofit agencies, The Nelson Mandela
delivered but suffered from the fact that the        Training Center and the Parker Hill/Fenway
customer was only occasionally available for         branch of Action for Boston Community Action
interviewing and some of those interviews were       (ABCD). Both agencies are located within
in the bowling alley itself, a very noisy            walking distance of campus. The student
environment. The students had to guess at some       response to being offered these two projects was
of the club rules and system requirements            overwhelming. The agencies were then solicited
making the resulting product unusable as             for other projects. Ten projects, enough for a
delivered. However, the system was                   project for each group, plus one project to
subsequently patched by someone else and             develop a web-based database application to
eventually deployed.                                 facilitate future projects, were assigned to the
The homeless shelter project yielded a viable
In order to ensure that the students were working   For Wentworth Institute of Technology:
on a project that they found interesting and
feasible for their skill levels, two surveys were   1.      A web-enabled database that would
taken. One survey asked each student about their    track new requests and facilitate student
background and qualifications outside of            assignment to new projects and tracking of
prescribed course sequences. The other outlined     completed projects.
each project briefly, noting whether it was a
web-enabled project or not, and asked students      Since that semester, students have completed
to form groups and rank their preferences for       projects for other local agencies, such as the
each project. All groups but one received either    United South End Settlement House and La
their first or second choice.                       Alianza Hispana, organizations that aid low-
                                                    income and immigrant populations. One project
For The Nelson Mandela Training center:             for the Home for Little Wanderers (HLW), a
                                                    foster and adoptive care agency, was a web-
1. An online application process for students       enabled application for Christmas sponsorship of
seeking training at the center. The center offers   children whom would otherwise receive no
two twelve-week tracks: computers and               holiday gifts. It saved the organization 120 hours
accounting.                                         and the hiring of a part-time aide while enabling
                                                    them to increase children served by 67 percent.
2. A course scheduling system to show
applicants available course sections and times.     Project Deliverables:

3. An online test bank that tested students as      Student teams were required to produce the
they progressed through the modules in the          following documentation:
program. Students know their scores
immediately, and statistical reports are provided   1. Requirements Analysis & Preliminary Design
to the management of the program.                   2. Conceptual Design (Entity-Relationship
4. A tracking program to provide reports on         3. Logical Design (Table mapping and
student employment and salary gains after           normalization)
completion of a training program.                   3. Physical Implementation
                                                    4. Systems Documentation (including a data
5. A marketing database of applicants, potential    dictionary)
applicants, and students who had completed the
training but may want to upgrade their skills.      All teams were required to conduct professional
                                                    presentations to the clients. All used PowerPoint
For the Parker Hill/Fenway ABCD:                    slide presentations and conducted thorough
                                                    demonstrations of their systems.
1. A database of available day care slots
searchable by age of child, price range,            Implementation of these projects for the two
languages spoken, hours of operation, and           outside agencies was completed in Access 2000
location.                                           as a back end, with Access 2000, C++ or Visual
                                                    Basic front ends. The web application to track
2. A database of available openings for low-        new projects and the HLW project was written
income housing.                                     in PHP with a MySQL back end. All projects
                                                    had appropriate security measures in place, such
3. A grant tracking database to facilitate          as groups and user logins with passwords.
obtaining funds for the agency.
                                                    What happened with these projects?
4. A database of employment opportunities.
All projects were implemented at the client sites    Drawbacks and Problems:
during the last week of classes. All projects,
except the one for Wentworth, are currently in       The projects had to be completed within a single
use. Follow-up calls made to the agencies have       sixteen-week semester.
all had positive feedback. The staff are
enthusiastic about the software. All agencies        Customers were often unavailable for
have expressed a desire to have an ongoing           interviewing. The student teams were on tight
relationship with Wentworth.                         schedules but were held up by customers.

Benefits:                                            Student goals sometimes clashed with agency
                                                     expectations. Feature creep was a significant
The real projects were extremely motivating to       problem as agency enthusiasm increased. Some
the students who usually put in extensive time       staff thought that the students were responsible
on them. The Advanced Database classes               for data entry. In addition, some project contacts
contained 53 students whom estimated 3,000           were not technologically literate.
total hours of time inclusive of analysis, design,
programming hours and on-site installation.          Students discovered an Access 2000 bug that
                                                     nearly derailed several projects. A bad code
Each project involved unforeseen complexity.         patch deployed on campus wreaked havoc for
They were harder than toy problems and more          the students in the final programming hours. A
typical of what the students will see on the job.    code fix was available, but Wentworth’s Office
Since the off-campus agencies’ applications had      of Information Technology had not yet installed
overlapping pieces, the students had to work in a    it. Students were forced to write workarounds.
larger group than just two or three of their
friends.                                             The most common complaint was one that is
                                                     echoed in nearly every office in existence: in
The customers always got something useful in         some groups, not all students pulled their
return for their time. Sometimes this was a          weight, which generated significant resentment.
functioning system, in others a reusable design.
The Database systems were fully functioning          Lastly, some of the agencies are located near to
and work well together. In all cases a better        the populace they serve, meaning, disadvantaged
understanding of their own business was a            and dangerous sections of the city. The students
positive externality of the process on the side of   expressed discomfort with the need to travel to
the agencies.                                        these sites.

The work was guaranteed to be original. There        Student Satisfaction:
was little question of students recycling
something they had done for another course or        Students were generally enthusiastic about their
had found on the Internet.                           experiences in working on real projects. The
                                                     most positive feelings were generated towards
Projects done for non-profit organizations can be    the homeless shelter database system, although
used to satisfy the community service                this project posed many difficulties for those
requirement that many colleges have for              involved. Several students expressed their
graduation. Participation in the work of non-        personal needs to give back something to
profits makes students more aware of the social      society. They stayed with the project for months
and ethical implications of computing. Such          after the course ended, and even volunteered to
understanding is now mandated by the ABET,           do other things at the shelter, such as serving
CAC accreditation criteria.i Whereas some            meals. Although Wentworth Institute looks
other schools offer a separate course in service     favorably on service learningii, it is not a
learningii, the Wentworth model is to incorporate    graduation requirement. The student effort was
it into the project portion of existing courses.     entirely altruistic.
Students in the Database class had mixed             skills are greatly transferable to SQL Server and
reactions. All students were asked during project    Oracle implementations.
presentations what they had enjoyed the most
and least about the process. All expressed           However, there is currently a SQL Server 2000
satisfaction and pride in their finished project.    project under construction for the Fall and
                                                     Summer 2003 which these professors are
They were uniformly surprised at how much            working on together. This project has required
work a real project actually entails. Overall, a     two students to act as database administrators.
deeper understanding of Access 2000 and the          The most ambitious project to date, students
components of an advanced database system            from two different courses and three different
were the most enjoyable aspects of the projects.     sections have already worked on it, and will
Students disliked most the conflicting               continue to work on final polishing in the Senior
communications with the users (which the             Project class offered this summer.
professor actually saw as a benefit, since this
experience will better prepare students for user     As students have found that the real projects
interactions in the post-graduation workplace).      have eased their difficulty in finding required
                                                     co-operative employment, subsequent classes
One group felt that they should have been            have expressed greater satisfaction. Many
compensated for their work beyond a grade.           students are now checking with instructors to see
They were told that they were required to            if their courses offer real projects, and taking
complete a project for the course anyway, so the     initiative to recruit their own.
difference between a toy and a real project was
not significant. In addition, they could translate   Advice and Conclusions:
this experience into a higher-paying job offer
after graduation, since they now were able to say    Real projects are an excellent teaching tool.
that they had completed an actual, functioning       Choose projects that are small enough to be
project.                                             doable but large enough to pose some
                                                     complexity. For external projects, the scope of
A high point for these students was the              the project must be clearly defined and put in
impromptu and eloquent address from Royal            writing. External agencies should be asked to
Bolling, a previous Massachusetts State              provide a contact for each project that is
Representative now the Director of the Nelson        knowledgeable and available for student
Mandela training center. He had attended the         questions.
student presentations for his agency and was
moved at the quality of the student’s work. He       Internal projects within the university pose less
thanked them and took time to inform them of         risk than external ones and the customers are
the impact of their work: in an age where social     more likely to make themselves available to the
service agencies are overworked and                  students. On the other hand, external projects for
underfunded, these projects would free staff         non-profits are more of a thrill for the students
from administrative tasks, leaving them more         and allow them to experience feelings of giving
time to serve their populace.                        something back to the community-at-large.

One student did note on their semester-end
evaluation that the use of Access 2000 was a         iAccreditation Board for Engineering and
disappointment. He would have preferred a more       Technology, Item IV-17 in the 2000-2001
difficult back end such as SQL Server or Oracle,     Criteria for Accrediting Computer Programs.
since these skills are more in demand. However,      Available from
these agencies only had Access 2000 available.
The experience of completing a real project          _a.pdf.
outweighs the selection of a platform. These
                                                     ii   P Sanderson and K Vollmar, A Primer for Applying
Service Learning to Computer Science, SIGCSE
Bulletin, Volume 32, Number 1, March 2000.

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