Tomorrow morning I will begin the last of my classroom discussions on software design at Dalian Nationalities University (DNU). To be more specific, I’ll be concluding a modified version of CIS3750 – Systems Analysis & Design in Applications – a required third-year course that I have taught each fall for the past six years in the School of Computer Science.
As I’ve written previously, the CIS3750 is a community-engaged classroom where students master learning outcomes by applying what they’ve learned immediately to a challenge presented by a not-for-profit or charitable organization community partner. In the past, this has involved broad challenges such as food insecurity, food distribution, and health and wellness. Our community partners have included the Guelph-Wellington Food Access Working Group, the Seed Community Food Hub, Meal Exchange, and Community Living Cambridge, to name a few.
Of course, identifying and evaluating a community partner’s challenge to ensure that it meets the various learning outcomes takes a significant amount of time. For that reason, the modified course that I teach at DNU doesn’t have a community partner. There’s just not enough time to set one up or to organize classroom visits for the students to develop a requirements document and demo their prototypes.
In lieu of a community partner, this year I opted to present the students with the challenge of community-based environment and health monitoring, specifically asking student teams to identify and develop a tool to engage citizen-scientists to monitor something in Dalian. As an example, I walked them through the eNuk project; specifically demoing a prototype of what the app might become.
Since then, the students have been learning about user stories, requirements gathering, developing iterations, use cases, and building prototypes as they strengthen their software design skills. These are all key skills that my students in Guelph would also be learning; the biggest differences, however, are that the Dalian students do not speak English as a first language, the course is condensed to three weeks from twelve, and most of the students are in second-year. This latter point means that they don’t necessarily have the same skills that third and higher year students who take the course in Guelph would have.
Fortunately, none of these differences seem to deter the students from conceptualizing and building prototypes for their citizen science community-based environment and health monitoring apps. Some of the student teams will be presenting their prototypes tomorrow as part of the last class, and I’m pretty excited to see what they’ve come up with.