Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Last Lap

It is hard to believe, but we are almost done with the class. Ten weeks have passed and we have moved into the last phase of the class with the Final Project.

The poster session will be happening in two weeks.

Many weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of finishing strong.

It is over the next two weeks that we will see the true mettle of the students. We're reached a crunch time where most classes all have their assignments due at the same time. The time management skills of most of the students will be severely tested. Those who survive, will emerge stronger.

We have been pushing the various project groups to deliver a prototype and push out their projects for real users to test. The various projects are in various stages of polish and hopefully, the majority of them would be pushed out by user testing by this weekend.

User testing is a very important component of CS3216. CS3216 is not just about software engineering, though there is a lot of that. The real goal of CS3216 is to provide students with an opportunity to identify and solve a meaningful problem.

Often times, students are somewhat immature and are not very good at articulating and/or identifying a good problem. They often get confused by the difference between a problem and an idea. Ideas that don't solve an important are really not very useful.

One of the reasons why I brought in a whole bunch of local entrepreneurs to give a talk last Monday is because entrepreneurs are folks who are good at identifying problems and also executing solutions. The sharing session was quite long and I was pleased to see that quite a number of the students stayed behind even after the session was over to chat with my entrepreneur friends.

Back to user testing, it was quite clear in our Final Project discussions that many of the students, while competent software engineers, do not have sufficient product development experience and have not spend sufficient time/effort thinking through the issue of user experience. The process of user testing is supposed to help students understand how users think and how to design better products.

We've also just finished our midterm survey and it seems that many of the students have learnt quite a number of things thus far and things are going relatively well like past semesters.

The Final Projects that we have this semester are very diverse. While we only have two weeks left, CS3216 students are very competent and are capable of doing a lot in just two weeks. I am hoping that once the projects get pushed out to real users, the live feedback would serve to inspire the students to iterate harder to improve their apps.

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