Experiences with a Real Projects for Real Clients Course on Software Engineering at a Liberal Arts Institution

Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 28(6):50-56, .

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Abstract

A Real Projects for Real Clients Course (RPRCC) is a course that provides students with the opportunity to develop a solution to a real problem. Students interact directly with a real client, and work on solving a problem for that client. RPRCCs are examples of service learning. Within the computing sciences, there has been a recent surge in the integration of RPRCCs into the curriculum. They are argued to offer an increased industrial awareness, and to help retain computing majors, especially among women. In this paper, we present our experiences with a senior-level computer science course on software engineering (SE) at a liberal arts institution. We have found that recruiting so-called "real clients" from within the liberal arts college setting is surprisingly easy; and that once you have established an initial set of clients is mostly self-sustaining. We demonstrate that an RPRCC enables students to develop their skills in teamwork and applied problem solving. The RPRCC offers the SE course a framework where students gain experience applying a variety of software architectures, design patterns, and other important SE concepts; and simultaneously develop teamwork skills.