Monday, 10 June 2013

Working with Software Hut Students

Students are frequently the customer of many of our process improvement projects and within the unit we are often looking at ways of capturing the voice of the customer. Often we are reliant on the use of focus groups, questionnaires, input from the Union of Students and looking at the process data eg emails from students about problems they are having with a process, or emails that identify questions that students may ask about a particular process.

When an email came round in January asking for people to identify projects that would like software developed by 2nd year computer science students as part of the Software Hut Project, we thought that it would be both useful and interesting.

We agreed that we would identify a software development project from the casual workers process improvement project, for two reasons: 1. our project had similar timescales to the software hut student project and 2. some potential for software development had been identified as part of our project.

We wrote an initial specification for the system, which would include registration of casual workers, approval within the department they were working in, and then a system for casual workers to submit time sheets, these to be approved by line managers, coded and approved by departmental administrators and then sent to payroll where the information would be exported in bulk for entering on to the university finance system. The system would need to allow for tracking the progress of the pay claim.

We were allocated three teams of students, over the twelve week period we worked together to agree a requirements document and to work with the teams as they developed the systems. This included six formal meetings with the teams, and three demonstrations of the systems in weeks 3, 5 and 10. The teams worked incredibly hard, and we had to ensure that we provided each team with the same information. It was quite challenging when some teams asked questions, to work out how much should be shared with the other teams. We were really conscious that it was student coursework as well as a traditional client/developer relationship.

The three teams submitted their systems on time, we tested the systems and marked them against a very clear marking scheme. One of the highlights was attending the final presentation, all students from the module attended, each client got the opportunity to feedback to their teams and declare their winner. We hope that all of our teams had a good learning experience working with us, and thank them for all of their hard work.

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