Researchers at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen have been awarded funding by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) to investigate the skills students learn through working collaboratively with colleagues around the globe.
Following on from a pilot global software engineering project led by RGU, in partnership with the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Bangalore last year, the HEA has allocated £10,000 to allow researchers at the university to document the skills and experience picked up by students who take part in various collaborative projects and the level of desirability of those to employers.
The RGU pilot, led by Julian Bass of the School of Computing Science and Digital Media, gave students the opportunity to explore software development as part of an international team.
Bass, a member of the university's research institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability (IDEAS), said: "It is becoming apparent that there is a worldwide interest in Agile software development methods, which sees teams of cross-functional specialists, spanning designers, developers and testers, working together as a group.
"This allows the different parts of a project to move forward in a holistic manner, rather than independently of each other, improving productivity, product quality and reducing delivery times.
"Working in this way means that computing science graduates who go into a job with a major company will find themselves having to work alongside specialists in different parts of the world. We have tried to cope with this shift in emphasis at RGU by increasing the focus of courses on Agile development methods, with the pilot project aiming to equip them with practical experience of that environment."
The project saw students use different communications methods, from instant messaging to video conferencing, to work alongside students in Bangalore on a software development project, dealing with all the practical issues that threw up.
Bass said: "The pilot went really well and I think it really brought to the forefront of the students' minds how they were going to make this software hang together even though it was being written by people who had never met.
"The funding from HEA will be used to carry out research into a number of these different collaborative projects which have been carried out internationally. We intend to look into the different skills that students learn by working in this way, the factors which affect the project, whether technical or cultural, and the demand for graduates with experience in these areas among employers."
Janet De Wilde, Assistant Director (Scotland) and Head of STEM at the HEA, said: "As the national body for learning and teaching in higher education, the HEA is pleased to be supporting this project which will look into collaborative projects that have a strong international element; an area which is particularly important to computing but which is relevant to many other disciplines as well.
"The main aim of the research is to determine the key pedagogical factors which encourage shared international projects. It will analyse technological factors involved with teams that are distributed internationally and any cultural issues which may affect the team's effectiveness.
"The report will also assess the benefits of such projects for students, particularly in terms of graduate attributes."
The HEA funding will cover the research and a follow-up workshop to disseminate the results and generate further discussion.