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Evaluating the learning effectiveness of using simulations in software project management education: Results from a twice replicated experiment

: Pfahl, D.; Laitenberger, O.; Ruhe, G.; Dorsch, J.; Krivobokova, T.


Information and software technology 46 (2004), No.2, pp.127-147 : Ill., Lit.
ISSN: 0950-5849
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IESE ()
COCOMO; learning effectiveness; replicated experiment; software project management; education; system dynamics; simulation

The increasing demand for software project managers in industry requires strategies for the development of management-related knowledge and skills of the current and future software workforce. Although several educational approaches help develop the necessary skills in a university setting, few empirical studies are currently available to characterise and compare their effects.
This paper presents the results of a twice replicated experiment that evaluates the learning effectiveness of using a process simulation model for educating computer science students in software project management. While the experimental group applied a System Dynamics simulation model, the control group used the well-known COCOMO model as a predictive tool for project planning.
The results of each empirical study indicate that students using the simulation model gain a better understanding about typical behaviour patterns of software development projects. The combination of the results from the initial experiment and the two replications with meta-analysis techniques corroborates this finding. Additional analysis shows that the observed effect can mainly be attributed to the use of the simulation model in combination with a web-based role-play scenario. This finding is strongly supported by information gathered from the debriefing questionnaires of subjects in the experimental group. They consistently rated the simulation-based role-play scenario as a very useful approach for learning about issues in software project management.