Team Software Development for Community Organizations

CSC 322, Fall 2014
Th 1:15 - 4:05, Science 3819
Janet Davis



Catalog description

Application of software development principles and practices to a large-scale project. Teams of 3-6 students build software for a community organization, supported by a faculty adviser and an alumni technical mentor. Students will gain experience working with a client and building a substantial code base suitable for inclusion in a professional portfolio. Students are encouraged to repeat the course for credit to experience multiple roles within a team and multiple phases of the software lifecycle.

Course goals and structure

In this course, you will apply agile software development principles and practices to a large-scale, team project. To motivate and provide context for the work, projects will serve a community organization. To provide technical expertise and professional perspective, alumni mentors will draw upon their practical software development experience.

You will gain experience with the complexities of real-world software development: communicating with clients; working as part of a team; self-directed technical learning; creating a substantial project from scratch, or learning an existing code base; making design decisions that may have long-term consequences; managing a large code base; addressing pragmatic and ethical dilemmas. You will be able to draw upon these experiences in pursuing academic or industry positions. By sharing your source code through GitHub, you will make a substantial beginning or addition to your professional portfolio. You will develop professional skills and perspectives.

The class will meet once weekly for a three-hour lab block over the 14-week semester; during most weeks you will be expected to meet and work for an additional 3 hours outside of class. There will be few readings and no examinations. Work will be student-directed; the instructor and alumni mentor will serve as consultants.

Over the semester, your project will develop as follows:

This course is a companion to CSC 321, Software Development Principles and Practices. In CSC 321, you will learn how to apply agile software methodology to developing software as a service (SaaS) using the Ruby on Rails framework. In this course, you will apply what you learned to a large-scale, real-world project. If you take CSC 322 concurrently with CSC 321, you will find that topics are introduced in CSC 321 just in time to apply them in CSC 322.

CSC 322 will be offered every semester and may be repeated for credit. Thus, you will have the opportunity to continue work on your project in the spring and beyond.


Agile software development is about people at least as much as it is about process or product. The success of this class relies on students and other stakeholders fulfilling their responsibilities in a number of roles:

The Team consists of 4-5 students (a "one-pizza team") who will develop and deliver the software. Our class will form 3-4 teams, with each student assigned to exactly one team.

The Community Partner (a.k.a. "Customer") has a software need which is to be fulfilled by the team's work. To ensure this is a learning experience, the community partners have identified real needs which are nonetheless not mission critical. The community partner will help the team articulate what the software should do, give feedback on how users should interact with it, and validate that requirements are met.

The Alumni Mentor is a Grinnell alumna/us who graduated 5-10 years ago and has significant experience with Ruby on Rails and agile software development. Teams will meet their mentors through a short teleconference during the first part of the semester. During an on-campus workshop, the mentor will coach the team through just enough intitial design. Thereafter, the mentor will join the team via teleconference for a retrospective at the end of each iteration. During each iteration, the alumni mentor will be available to provide advice and support in addressing technical and project management challenges.

The Product Owner is the team member who maintains the project vision, prioritizes user stories, and keeps an open line of communication with the customer. The product owner role will be held by one team member throughout the semester.

The ScrumMaster (a.k.a. "Project Manager") is a team member who keeps the team on task, facilitates team processes, and ensures the team has the resources it needs to succeed. In this class, the ScrumMaster will also coordinate team communications with the alumni mentor. This role may rotate among members of the team in accordance with their interest, but the ScrumMaster and Product Owner roles should never be held by the same person.

The Instructor is responsible for determining the structure of the course, identifying and assigning projects, facilitating team formation and interactions between teams, and assessing both team progress and individual learning. The Instructor may also assist with any interpersonal issues that cannot be settled within the team.


Academic honesty and respecting copyright

As students, you are members of the academic community. Both the College and I expect the highest standards of academic honesty. (See the Grinnell College Catalog). Among other things, this means clearly distinguishing between work that is your own, and work that should be attributed to others. This includes ideas and examples that you draw from labs and readings.

Moreover, in this course, you are joining a professional community of practice with its own customs concerning the open sharing of code and laws protecting individual and corporate copyrights.

It is expected that you will adhere to the following collaboration and copyright policies.

As an instructor, I will meet my obligation to bring any work suspected to be in violation of the College's Academic Honesty Policy to the attention of the Committee on Academic Standing, after which there is no recourse with me.

However, copyright violations in the context of the project are not merely academic: They may poison your team's codebase and thereby delay or prevent your project from being used by our community partners. Be mindful of how you use others' code!


If you have a disability that requires accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that we can work together to find accommodations that meet your learning needs. You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to the Academic Advising Office, located on the third floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3701). See the Student Affairs page on disability resources for more information.


I will generally provide flexibility in how you use class time, as long as the time is used productively and educational objectives are met. Some class sessions will have a flexible location to permit you to meet with your project partner during regular work hours. I expect each team's project manager to briefly report to me by email how you used class time and who was present.

In the spirit of mutual professional responsibility, each student gets one "vacation day" and one "sick day." Your foremost responsibility is to your team.

I will deduct 3% from your overall grade for each absence not accounted for by the above policies.

Two important exceptions when everyone's attendance is required:

  1. We will have an on-campus workshop with alumni mentors from noon until about 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 2. I expect you to prioritize this one-day workshop over other activities such as athletics.

  2. Barring illness, you must attend your team's final presentation on the last day of class.

I plan to be absent for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday, October 9. I expect teams to make progress on Iteration 1 during this time, and I will make myself available via a Google Hangout for questions and troubleshooting. I promise to take a sick day if need be; you will be expected to make the most of class time in my absence.


Most work will be due at class time. Obviously, in order to demonstrate your work during class, it must be complete.

At times, you may find your team can work more efficiently if you get feedback on your work before class. I am happy to schedule a one-time or standing appointment to review work with your team outside of class. Use my online scheduling tool for a one-time appointment (15 minutes should be enough) or talk to me to schedule a standing appointment.

Getting help

For advice on technical, design, project management, and customer communication problems, you should take advantage of your alumni mentor's professional experience. Each team should negotiate with their mentor how best to communicate between meetings - by email, telephone, IRC, or another medium - and how quickly to expect a response. In deciding when to seek help, consider this advice: You Must Try, and Then You Must Ask.

Susan Sanning, Grinnell's Director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement, has offered herself as a resource for understanding local culture and addressing communication issues with our community partners. You can call her at 641-269-4827.

You are welcome to meet with me about concerns regarding the class itself and interpersonal issues you cannot resolve within your team, as well as any other concerns you are not comfortable taking to your alumni mentor. You may drop in during my office hours, posted weekly on my Google calendar, and you may knock any time my door is open. If your need is known at least 12 hours in advance, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with me. If you need help urgently, please call or text me on my cell at 206-383-8798.


Because of the experiential nature of this class, I see my role as more of a facilitator than as an instructor. However, it is also part of my duty to assess your learning and assign you a final grade for the course.

I will maintain a gradebook for this course on PioneerWeb.

I will use the following scheme as an initial basis for assigning final grades:

Type of work
Team or individual
# of assignments
V2MOM, initial stories, and lo-fi prototypes
Iteration scores
Team/individual *
Final presentation
Final portfolio

* Each student will rate all their team members with a score from 1 to 10 for each iteration; I will anonymize and share team feedback with you.  For the first iteration, there will be no impact on your grade. For the second, third, and fourth iterations, peer ratings will factor into your individual iteration score as follows:

I do not believe in grading on a curve; I would be thrilled to give you all As. However, I reserve the right to make adjustments if this weighting scheme produces grades which are lower than I believe are deserved. Any such adjustments will only raise your grade, never lower it.

Remember this is a 2-credit class and will carry half of the usual weight in your cumulative GPA.


See events on OrgSync for more detail.

Date Iteration Class activities Class location
Due (at or before class time)
Thursday Aug 28 -2
SCI 3819

Thursday Sept 4 -1
Forming teams
SCI 3819
MBTI (Friday);
Résumé (Monday);
Project preferences (Monday)
Thursday Sept 11 0.1
First meetings with partners
Date, time, and location for first partner meeting;
Request transportation if needed
Thursday Sept 18 0.2
Share and revise V2MOM;
Put initial stories in PivotalTracker;
Sketch lo-fi mockups and storyboards;
Mentor introductions
SCI 3819
Initial user stories on index cards;
Individual drafts of V2MOM
Thursday Sept 25 0.3
Get partner feedback on V2MOM, mockups, and storyboards
Initial stories in PivotalTracker;
Team V2MOM;
Initial lo-fi mockups and storyboards
Thursday Oct 2 1.0
Mentor workshop - Just Enough Design Initially
See OrgSync for schedule of mentor events
SCI 3819
Team V2MOM validated by partner;
Partner feedback on lteration 1 mockups and storyboards
Thursday Oct 9 1.1
Iteration 1 workshop
Cucumber scenarios for iteration 1
Thursday Oct 16 1.2
Iteration 1 demos
SCI 3819
Iteration 1 done
Fall Break

Thursday Oct 30 2.1
Iteration 2 workshop
Cucumber scenarios for iteration 2;
Iteration 1 retrospective and peer evals
Thursday Nov 6 2.2
Iteration 2 demos
SCI 3819
Iteration 2 done
Thursday Nov 13 3.1
Iteration 3 workshop
Cucumber scenarios for iteration 3;
Iteration 1 retrospective and peer evals
Thursday Nov 20 3.2
Iteration 3 demos
SCI 3819
Iteration 3 done
Thursday Nov 27 Thanksgiving
Thursday Dec 4
Iteration 4 workshop
Cucumber scenarios for iteration 4;
Iteration 4 retrospective and peer evals
Thursday Dec 11
Final presentations; course retrospective
SCI 3819
Iteration 4 done
Finals Week
Dec 17
Portfolio due at 12 noon, along with iteration 4 peer evals


There are no textbooks for this course beyond those required and suggested for CSC 321.

To support additional topics you may want or need to learn on your own, I have stocked the CS Library with a shelf of books on related topics: Ruby and Ruby on Rails; regular expressions; Web design and usability; HTML, CSS, and XML; version control and other tools; Scrum and XP; and software engineering in general.

Janet Davis (

Created August 24, 2014
Last revised November 20, 2014