Using wikis to simulate distributed requirements development in a software engineering course

Minocha, Shailey; Petre, Marian and Roberts, Dave (2008). Using wikis to simulate distributed requirements development in a software engineering course. International Journal of Engineering Education, 24(4) pp. 689–704.



Software development activities are increasingly being conducted collaboratively across multiple time zones and multiple teams. This creates challenges in building shared values and trust, and in coping with asynchronous collaboration and communication. In response to these trends, tools such as wikis, blogs, web portals and groupware are being integrated in development processes to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of teams. To enable students to meet these challenges, there is a need to use technology in software engineering education to simulate authentic structures of work practices. Use of collaborative and discourse tools will provide students with the experiences of communicating and negotiating with diverse stakeholders with different views and backgrounds. It will also enable the development of transferable skills for working with community tools in the industry. As with most software design and development processes, Requirements Engineering (RE) is increasingly being conducted in distributed environments. Wikis are being used to provide a platform for asynchronous collaboration for participative requirements development. In a post-graduate RE part-time distance-learning course at the Open University in the UK, we have introduced wiki activities in the course to provide students with the opportunity to engage in small-group collaboration to emulate RE practice. In this paper, we discuss the nature of the RE process, the usage of wikis in RE practice, and the challenges of introducing collaborative-work and wikis on the RE course at the Open University and our solutions. We will draw on empirical evidence to discuss effectiveness of wiki in collaborative learning of the RE processes.

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