Dr. Malcolm Murray is the Learning Technologies Team Leader at Durham University. Please join him for his session “Letting the Lunatics Run the Asylum: Students Developing Code for the Production Environment,” on Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 8:30-9:15AM, Titian 2303. Dr. Murray will also be presenting at BbWorld. To learn more about that session, read his earlier blog post, “Rethinking Student Feedback.”

Last summer I got the opportunity to try something that I’d been wanting to do for the last five years – get some students working on building blocks! What began as an apparently simple task soon revealed itself to be far more complicated – perhaps the term “lunatic” I have used in the title of the presentation applies more to me than the students! That said, ultimately this was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

During the session I will look at the way we approached this task. I’ll talk about the test servers we used, setting up the students’ development tools, and the hunt for documentation.  I’ll also be reflecting on the way we selected projects, what is realistic to expect Computer Science students to achieve and the problems that stemmed from something I should have anticipated – the fact that none of them had seen the course control panel before! I’ll conclude with some lessons learned about scope creep, testing, release strategies and contrasting the time students take to master building blocks with the need for institutions sometimes to make a decision.

Whilst increased airport security and sensitivity to student welfare means that I will not be able to sneak the students into my luggage, I will use the next best thing – a series of video cameos – to let you hear the views of the real heroes of this work – the three students.  I hope to end with a musical plea – those of you who know me need not worry, it will not involve any singing on my part.

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