Reply to Iain Arthurs – Software Development Course Content

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Recently, our little software company was contacted by a local college, to provide feedback on the content of a couple of new software engineering and advanced programming courses they are looking to run.

I saw this is an opportunity to offer my assistance to those asking how should we teach software engineering?

Hi Iain, thank you for your reminder - please accept my apologies for not getting back to you sooner!

I’ve read the 2 course outlines you sent and I think you’ve got a good focus for students wishing to go on to develop software development roles. I like the outline of the courses very much - especially your choice of .Net as we’re a .Net-based development company ourselves.

If I may, I would like to suggest a few areas that I found lacking in my own formal education that I think, should a graduate make note of on their C.V. as having had experience of on your courses, would put them on top of the pile based on my experience of hiring developers at OnePoint Systems. These are, namely:

An introduction to source control
this could be as little as a single session describing what it is, why it’s essential in software development, release and maintenance lifecycles - without a doubt in team-based development, but it can also offer huge benefits for individuation development projects. I think it would be ideal to get the students to have hands-one experience with it - say as part of a team project, or as a requirement for handing in software for marking that it is checked in to some source control that the teacher would then check-out and build so as to mark

An overview of Agile Methodologies
I see you have R.A.D. and Prototyping listed which is excellent (as is understanding the Waterfall Lifecycle), but I’ve found in my professional development that Agile - specifically Test-Driven Development (TDD) is fast becoming commonplace in software development companies - to quote Steve McConnell (author of Code Complete): “within the next few years we won’t talk about Agile much anymore; we’ll just talk about programming”. I would not wish to cover this topic in any more detail as I assume you are already familiar with it

A lesson on 3rd party tools and controls
Something that I found completely missing in my formal education was (even the notion of) the practice of using 3rd party tools and controls within my own software projects. While tools could be covered by introducing source-control and add-ins for development IDE’s (such as Microsoft’s SourceSafe or Team System), or debugging tools such as Lutz Roeder’s .Net Reflector, the integration of 3rd party controls for their re-use value alone is, in my opinion, worth a session on its own - even if the students don’t get to actually use 3rd part controls. I’m thinking of listing a few resources such as ComponentSource.com, telerik.com, infragistics.com or janussys.com - to open the students mind to the idea that developing everything in-house is rarely the best way to proceed.

Reporting
for most application development a little hands-on experience about how software reports are put together is, again, in my opinion essential. The reporting engine, be it Microsoft Reporting Services, Crystal Reports or a 3rd party reporting add-in such as Active Reports for .Net is of little differentiating factor for the simple kind of reports that allow the students to get the data out of their software creations and onto a physical piece of paper. In many ways, I think report creation is the final, completing step in creating a software application - it’s the tangible output of an intangible product.

I thank you very much for this opportunity to offer my feedback, and I wish you and your students the very best. If I may be of any further assistance, please get in touch and I shall endeavour to be a little more responsive with my reply.

Kindest regards,

Andrew

Andrew Freemantle