What Communication Tools Do Students Use in Software Projects and How Do Different Tools Suit Different Parts of Project Work?

Author(s): Otto Seppälä, Tapio Auvinen, Ville Karavirta, Arto Vihavainen, Petri Ihantola
Venue: International Conference on Software Engineering
Date: 14-22 May 2016

Type of Experiement: Case Study
Sample Size: 45
Class/Experience Level: Undergraduate Student
Participant Selection: part of web development class
Data Collection Method: Survey

Quality
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There are many different communication tools now available to students. This paper seeks to understand what tools students choose to use to communicate with their team and how do different tools suit different parts of projects. 150 students were split into 50 teams in a web development class. Amongst the students there was a mix of different school years and programming experience as well as teamwork skills. Upon completion of the course the students were asked to participate in a survey and a total of 45 students responded.

The survey asked the following questions: 1) what tools did you use, and 2) what did you use them for. They were also asked to rate the effectiveness for the tools they listed for different tasks such as brainstorming, scheduling meetings, scheduling deadlines, distributing tasks, solving programming problems, and keeping up the team spirit.

The most popular communication tools included face-to-face communication, email, video chat, social media (Facebook), Flowdock, Trello, Github, wikis, Piazza, Skype chat, and Google's chat. There were also popular choices amongst these tools for specific tasks. Face-to-face communication was favored for brainstorming, Github issues for programming problems, and Flowdock received high scores for programming related tasks. There was no strong preference for scheduling meetings.

This study found that students use a wide variety of tools for communication and collaboration. There is less preference for dedicated tools for less technically oriented tasks such as brainstorming or scheduling meetings. But for technically oriented tasks, dedicated tools were preferred.

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