Beacon-Based Large Touch Screens for Student Team Collaboration and Learning

Project Title: Beacon-Based Large Touch Screens for Student Team Collaboration and Learning

Project Lead’s Name: Matthew Stephan


Phone: (513) 529-0335

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CEC

Are There Other Project Team Members?: Yes

Other Project Team Member: Jim Kiper

Other Team Member Email Address:

Brief description of project: There is a large uptake of Agile development methodologies in the Software Engineering industry and research communities, as well many other fields. One important aspect of Agile development, and Software development in general, is the notion of story walls, whereby software development teams track their "user stories" on physical walls to facilitate team focus, project tracking, and effective collaboration. These ideas have been integrated into our curriculum and have been well received by students, alumni, and hiring companies. One issue that our students are facing is that physical story walls are not feasible for a large number of students, especially given our increasing enrollment and fixed space in the Benton and Engineering buildings. This project proposes having virtual storyboard walls as a solution by using large touch screen displays with tracking beacons. This will allow our capstone, and computer science and software engineering course teams, to learn and experience proper storyboarding techniques and development planning, while maximizing our very limited space. By using beacons and dedicated logins, authenticated through mobile apps, these displays/interfaces will be easily accessible by a large number of students and provides an excellent tool for project collaboration, and learning teamwork skills and strategies.

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: No

If yes, please explain: Not directly a focus, however, graduate student TAs and capstone mentors could employ this in their work and research.

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem.: The modern workplace for software developers is undergoing a transformation from individual offices or cubicles to an open workspace model. The adoption of such space in software development organizations has allowed development teams to co-locate, thus facilitating stronger communication and collaboration between teammates. One of the center pieces of the open workspace for software developers is the story wall. A story wall is a physical wall that is used by software development teams to track user stories that capture user requirements. While such walls can be managed virtually, in the open workspace model, these walls are also managed on a physical wall in support of the concept of "Big Visible Charts", that is, the notion that important information radiators should be visible to all stakeholders while they collaborate. Our challenge and problem is that we cannot even begin to hope to have walls/space for all of our students that collaborate on teams in our program because of our space limitations. For any given semester, the software engineering and computer science programs will have student teams for all capstone teams (18-25 teams, 100-120 total students) and software engineering course teams (at least 3 courses with 8-10 teams each). A wall space for each team is unfeasible, especially given that these wall spaces are supposed to be available and accessible to the teams whenever they need them. That means that, as it stands now, our capstone and software engineering course teams currently have to recreate their wall spaces/boards manually every time they want to meet and work.

We propose using two large touch screen monitor/computers outfitted with beacons to provide student teams with a mixed virtual/physical wall. As such, a few spaces and labs around the department can be used to support story walls. These monitors will have the ability to switch contexts whenever students on particular teams enter a room through the use of the beacons. Beacons are hardware devices that can be installed on walls, and can be used to track individuals locations, with their permission, using Bluetooth technology through an app. See for a quick illustration. By having our proposed displays work with and connect to these beacons, students/teams will be able to automatically log in to the respective display when so desired and in proximity of the beacons through their cell phones.

The criteria state that technology fee projects should benefit students in innovative and/or significant ways. How would you describe the innovation and/or significance of your project?: As described earlier, the mixture of technology and space will allow us to innovatively address our ever-increasing space needs while facilitating the creation of an authentic open workspace that has the features necessary to support collaboration. It is significant in that it will be used by over 100 students on capstone teams, and the hundreds of students taking software engineering courses, including CSE 201 Introduction to Software Engineering, which is a mandatory course for all computer science and software engineering students. Our enrollments have increased significantly to the point that we will have 120 students on capstone teams in the near future.

This proposal directly advances the use of technology in both teaching and learning. From a teaching perspective, faculty in the two rooms hosting these devices can teach with them, demonstrating through touch interfaces the relevant SE concepts. From a learning perspective, it relates directly to the students' academics and can be a part of the broader Miami experience, making students' lives better and more productive.

How will you assess the project?: One quantifiable outcome of this project is the amount of usage these two virtual wall spaces experience. This can be measured by checking the IT server logs of these computers allowing us to see when they were logged on and the general nature of the activities being conducted on the platforms. A qualitative outcome will be the feedback from the students who are using the technology. The project/solutions will be assessed continually, and will continue indefinitely as we plan on the technology being in place as a long term solution.

From a teaching and learning perspective, we can measure, through observation, the ability of the students to manage their software products through these large virtual story walls and to conduct meetings employing this technology. The observable value here is to add to the students' skill set in story wall usage and task management, and enhance their learning in doing so.

Have you applied for and/or received Tech Fee awards in past years?: Yes

If funded, what results did you achieve?: Dr. Stephan was granted a tech fee award, "Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness of Learning for CS & SE Students Through Multiple Monitors", for around $18,000 in 2016.

Dr. Stephan has collected quantitative and qualitative data from the students supporting their satisfaction and improved learning through this award, and more data is being collected. The lab with these monitors has become the most sought after lab, and has proven to be an amazing tool for teaching and student application of knowledge. Additionally, through IRB approved research, he is working on publishing these results and acknowledging the Student Tech Fee. A final report has not been submitted yet. We will be doing it later this year as the project is still in progress. His report at the end of the year will include all of this data, and a summary of the results.

Did you submit a final report?: No

What happens to the project in year two and beyond? Will there be any ongoing costs such as software or hardware maintenance, supplies, staffing, etc.? How will these be funded?: In general, the students and community have been careful and diligent with the technology here in Benton. We anticipate the same will hold true for this equipment. So there should be no ongoing costs. In addition, the displays have 1 year-warranty.

For the beacons, they have a default battery life of 3 years, with a maximum of 5 years. The replacement cost of these beacons is $60 for each set. So, that would be $120 in 3 years to 5 years. In the long term, this will be funded by our department.

Budget: Hardware

Hardware Title(s) & Vendor(s): 2x BigTouch 70-Inch ; 2x Wall Mount ; 6 Beacons = 2 x Estimote Development Kit with 3 Proximity Beacon. Vendors: Intouch & Estimote

Hardware Costs: $20,531.00

What is the total budget amount requested?: $20,531.00