Computer science professors Ward and Daugherity promote global learning

Dr. Ward and Dr. Widyantoro standing with ITB studentsDr. Ronnie Ward, TEES assistant research professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, was selected as a Fulbright Senior Scholar to do research on international software development teams during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Ward worked with his host, Dr. Dwi Widyantoro, to teach a course in Global Software Development and International Teaming in the School of Electrical Engineering & Informatics at Institut Teknologi Bandung in Indonesia. Ward and Senior Lecturer Walter Daugherity in College Station aimed to help students understand software development issues that take place when teaming with other student engineers who come from different cultures.

The professors finished the fall semester with 13 teams of three students each, and the students completed a project to develop a Restaurant Order Management System in C++. They went from skeletal code to a full-blown application with a GUI interface in 10 weeks. The Indonesian engineering students are seniors in computer science and previously studied C++ as a part of their curriculum. The Texas A&M students are freshmen honor students studying C++. Working together the ITB students taught the Aggies about managing source code in large or group projectswhile learning to form working relationships with people they have never met.Dr. Daugherity with Texas A&M students

The students shared 5,475 messages with each other via email, Google Talk, eLearning, Facebook and Google Groups. Over half of their communications were relative to the project. The remaining 1,386 messages were spent on socialization, learning and understanding their cultural similarities and differences. Some of these messages were even about Aggie Football. The ITB students discovered the Texas A&M students connection to sports, and the Aggies found that sports are not part of academic life in Indonesia. Another surprise for the ITB students was finding out that the Texas A&M classroom composition was not homogeneous: Students in Daugherity's class were from the United States, China, South Africa and India, while in Ward's class all the students were from Indonesia.

A few of the Texas A&M student remarks include:

  • "Great opportunity to meet someone across the globe and develop my international communication skills!"
  • "Working with someone on the other side of the world was awesome! Who gets to do this, really?"
  • "My ITB partner was easy to work with and his English was great."
  • "It was interesting to learn about street food in Indonesia. My partner was easy to work with."
  • "Finding times to work together was challenging."
  • "Good project. Interesting to learn about foreign desserts, too!"

Ward said that the teamwork greatly enhanced the students' "soft skills," making them more valuable to potential employers.

"Industry wants people who are skilled, who get along with other people, who know how to follow through on their commitments when others don't," he said.

The students learned to set up projects, team together and manage their work to deliver results. In spite of culture, language, time (12 hours) and technology differences, the students successfully completed their job on the restaurant order management system project to produce a real application.

"We are more than happy with the results of this semester and it really helps us shape what we do next semester," Ward said.



photo top left:  Dr. Ward and Dr. Widyantoro, standing with ITB students
photo right:  Dr. Daugherity, far right with Texas A&M students