A framework for relevant software development education
Liebenberg, Janet Adri
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It is widely acknowledged that there is a shortage of software developers with the right skills and knowledge. In respect of their university education, students want to take courses and carry out projects that clearly relate to their lives and their goals. The software development industry on the other hand, expects students to be educated in courses and projects, which are relevant for their professional career and equip them to be well-prepared for the workplace. In the middle, between the students and the industry, is the university that is expected to meet the needs of the students on the one side and the software industry on the other side. The unique contribution of this research is the development of a framework for relevant software development education by addressing the question: How can universities ensure that software development education provides knowledge and skill sets that are relevant to both the software development industry and software development students? The literature study investigates the software development class, focusing on the students and the educators. Furthermore, a review of the software development workplace is done with attention to the software developers and their employers. The problems and challenges facing three role players in software development education, namely the students, the university and the industry are investigated. Lastly, the role of the university in relevant software development education is considered with a specific focus on curricula. In the empirical study a questionnaire was developed to investigate the relevance of software development education from the perspective of the students. The questionnaire enquired about students’ interests in each of a list of software development topics and further questions relating to students’ views and needs for a relevant education are presented. The questionnaire was completed by 297 software development students and it was found that although a gap exists between students' needs and software development education, students’ education does have a predominantly social relevance and also a moderate personal and professional relevance. A second questionnaire was developed to investigate the relevance of software development education as it pertains to the software industry. The questionnaire enquired about the perceptions of professional software developers regarding what topics they learned from their formal education and the importance of these topics to their actual work. The questionnaire was completed by 214 software development professionals and again it was found that there is a gap between the industry’s needs and software development education. Questions related to the industry’s needs, as well as an open-ended question at the end of the questionnaire offered rich insights into the industry’s view of its new graduates and the problems and challenges surrounding software development education. The quantitative data, as well as the qualitative data offered solutions to these problems and challenges. The students’ views are compared with the professional software developers’ views to investigate the compatibility between the relevance of software development education for students and the relevance for the software industry. The analysis reveals matching and differing views. A framework for relevant software development education was developed to address the gap between software development education and the students’ needs, as well as the gap between software development education and the industry’s needs. The problems and challenges that might cause SD education to be less relevant are presented and recommendations to industry and university for relevant software development education are made.
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