Supporting Real Demands in Software Engineering with a Four Steps Project-Based Learning Approach

Leonardo Humberto Silva, Renata Xavier Castro, Marice Costa Guimaraes

Project-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered and learn-by-doing approach that organizes learning around projects. While entrepreneurship and PBL in SE education are thrilling research topics, there seems to be very little work focusing on the pros and cons of involving external stakeholders to support real demands in software engineering education. Working on real projects also supports students to acquire leadership skills, such as communication, project management, and teamwork. This paper describes a case study integrating students from different Software Engineering programs and involving external stakeholders, underpinned by PBL concepts. We present how this study was designed and implemented in a large institution, in four steps, summarized as follows: (I) requirements gathering and design; (II) information system development and implementation; (III) integration tests and deployment process; (IV) support and maintenance activities. The study had the participation of 59 students from a professional technical course in step one, working in teams, and 10 undergraduate students from a Bachelor's program in Information Systems in the following steps, working in pairs. Overall, the feedback from stakeholders and students exceeded expectations, although it increased the workload of teachers. We were able to distill a new set of lessons learned, and we expect that at least some of them will be useful for anyone implementing a similar course. As a consequence of this study, we plan to institutionally formalize the PBL course improvement process by defining specific outcomes and measurements.

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