Sharing best practice

Sharing best practice

by Academy Admin

This section features examples of best practice where institutions are sharing their ideas and are committed to continual improvement.

The software engineering modules are a superb marrying of theory and practice – Royal Holloway University of London 2014 

Software engineering is the discipline that allows everyone to write good code as part of a team that is works when delivered into the client environment. 

At Royal Holloway we are committed to equipping our students with the skill sets and experience to enable them to be effective professional software engineers when they are employed after graduation. 

We begin this process by introducing the notion of software design through a group based practical course in the first semester of the first year.  In this course they learn that software is valuable only in that it provides value to a client.  They work on a variety of case studies to emphasise different aspects of software design.  At the end of this module students see the importance of requirements and design in the software engineering process. 

In the second year we teach two core software engineering modules.  The emphasis throughout is on becoming a professional software engineer, understanding that the client is part of the process and that working software, delivered early is the key to success. 

The second year modules run in two flavours: as part of the core BSc or as part of the Software Engineering degree.  In the former case the coursework is the same for all students.  In the latter case students work on delivering software to real external clients who present a variety of actual commercial projects.  In both cases the coursework is supported by a rich set of face to face sessions using a wide variety of formats, including dramatisation, group based practical work, snowballing,  simulation, practical demonstrations, Q&A sessions and standard lectures. 

In the first module of the second year students work as individuals.  The module is driven by a series of assignments that allow students to develop their skills with tools, techniques and processes.  By completing the coursework, students develop a full understanding of professional agile development. 

Students are introduced to ideas in lectures just as they become relevant to their practical work.  Their first assignment introduces TDD and Checkstyle to embed a testing first approach to writing clear code that meets a strict programming standard.  In their second assignment, having learnt about UML  diagrams, patterns and user stories, they design, and decompose into tasks, the system that they will develop in software teams in the second semester.  The third and longest piece of work is to deliver a significant piece of software: they are assessed on the correct and effective use of their software engineering skills.  Each student submits a reflective report and their svn archive .  For this work the lectures cover source code management (using svn) and how  appropriate processes deliver frequent tested releases that can be managed subsequent to release.  This includes gaining an understanding of planning tested releases, and mapping user stories to tasks that are delivered through a set of commits into a branch of the code base, keeping the trunk stable for release. 

In the second semester of the second year students work in software engineering teams to deliver a software solution to a client .  Here they apply the skills they have learned using an industry standard agile process: scrum development.  They choose scrum masters and have weekly scrum meetings with their client.  In their first scrum they discuss their designs from the first semester. 

They are assessed on their contribution to their group and on their demonstration of software engineering skills.  It is the practical application of the skills learnt in the first semester in a team environment that makes clear the necessity of software engineering in the real world and makes our students so valuable in the workplace when they graduate. 

All course materials are available online through the college Moodle system at

An annual three-day instructor conference was held (normally on-campus in Liverpool) to help update, inform and disseminate current practice and ideas – University of Liverpool On-Line 2013

The University of Liverpool, in collaboration with Laureate Online Education in partnership, co-host an annual faculty research conference, held in Liverpool. 

The seventh such conference takes place in 2013 and will be the biggest ever, with over 100 members of faculty attending, including a many online instructors who will be travelling from all over the world together with non-academic staff involved in the running of the online programmes. 

As well as providing the opportunity for remotely located faculty to get together to network and build relationships face to face, the conference showcases research projects funded by the partnership, implemented in many cases jointly, by Liverpool and Laureate faculty research teams. 

The conference runs concurrently with student graduation ceremonies in July, thus providing the opportunity for faculty to meet their graduating students and attend the relevant ceremonies. Online faculty are also invited to participate in formal management meetings during the week and workshops aimed at Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or technology and innovation. 

Guest speakers are invited; in 2012, the Vice Chancellor provided the keynote address, and in 2013 the Chief Executive Officer of Laureate Global Products and Services will reciprocate.