BVU computer science students are doing something 'groovy'

Monday, December 10, 2007

There's something "Groovy" going on in Jason Shepherd's computer programming class that will eventually benefit Buena Vista University faculty as they advise and mentor with students across campus.

"Groovy" is actually a hot, new programming language says Shepherd, instructor of computer science. The six students in his User Interface Design and Development class are building a web application that will assist faculty advisors in working with their students.

"This project will help faculty advisors mentor students in their chosen fields, guide them in planning their academic careers, assist in choosing a course of study, explain graduation requirements and assist with time management and other issues," says Shepherd. The project is expected to be completed sometime in early 2008.

The class project is giving the students real-world experience, says Shepherd. "The students are interacting with faculty advisors across campus to understand what they need to know and what they need to do in order to advise students in a variety of ways. My students are applying user-centered software engineering processes to design, prototype and test the 'Advising Dashboard' during development."

David Woolworth, a senior computer science major from Grimes who graduates in December, says what he has learned from this class will give him a head start in a job he will be starting with a computer consulting company in Des Moines where he will be designing user interfaces in the form of applications and Web sites for businesses.

In the class, the students conducted design evaluations of not only Web sites but also how the principles of design apply to common objects such as toilet paper dispensers. "We even had to design a toilet paper dispenser using Nielsen's Heuristics for User Interface Design," notes David.

Shepherd has been drawing on his own 10 years of interface design experience as an IT industry professional to help his students see how design works in a real-world setting. "Many of the design problems these students are tackling come directly from Fortune 500 clients I have worked with," he says. "The actual programming the students are doing uses very new technologies, such as Groovy and Grails, which some companies are just now starting to adopt." Grails is a framework that allows programmers to write Web applications much faster than previous frameworks.

"Few colleges and universities are exposing their students to dynamic scripting languages such as Groovy," he says. "The overarching goal of this course is to help IT professionals think less like programmers and more like psychologists, industrial designers and ergonomics professionals."

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