Note: This is the final blog post required for this course. At the time of this writing, the blog is hosted on Oregon State University’s WordPress site. Since this capstone course is my final degree requirement, my login credentials will expire permanently in the near future. That said, I do have further thoughts I’d like to post if I have some breathing room before that happens.
A SWOT analysis is an assessment of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in a plan or project. It’s generally presented as a 2×2 matrix that facilities identification of areas in which further inquiry and action may be most fruitful.
A SWOT matrix with row and column labels providing context for the areas of analysis. Image licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 DEED.
CS 467 — Online Capstone Project
A refresher: I’m on a 6-student team in the online, 3-month version of the course. Our project is SaaS Application for Fire Department 911 Risk Analysis for industry sponsor Levrum Data Technologies. We are charged with continuing work on an existing application that provides response time data visualization for fire departments.
With this in mind, I will analyze the course within the context of my experience with an industry sponsor as part of a larger-than-average team.
The definitions of each category are not necessarily in line with those in the above graphic and are provided as part of the headings when this is the case.
- Sponsor: In our case, the sponsor has been very communicative and helpful. At no point have we been concerned about lack of responsiveness. The instructional team told us they have confidence in the sponsor and it’s well placed.
- Coordination: Especially with so many team members, this course requires a lot of planning, communication, and feedback within the team. It’s great way to get some realistic project experience.
- Existing code: While some courses require parsing small amounts of code, the existing code base we had to get familiar with forced us to come to grips with just learning enough to get to work. It was an important lesson.
Time: Our project is meant to become a commercial product at some point. Making significant contributions in three months of part-time work (including project selection and onboarding), almost invariably results in tempering expectations. It certainly did in our case.
Opportunities (for improvement)
The Microsoft .NET logo. Image licensed under CC0 1.0 DEED.
Stricter Selection: Our team took on a project written chiefly in .NET/C# having stated that only one out of the six of us had any experience with the framework and language. While we did learn enough to get to work, it took us several weeks. The result is that we spent almost half the course in research rather than production.
This is certainly a learning experience on its own and I appreciate it. However, we may have been able to write a lot more working code if we had been forced to take something other than our first choice that was more in line with our strengths.
Threats (significant weaknesses)
Documentation: In this course, the main method of documentation is a video of a narrated slide presentation submitted once a week. Each team member produces a minimum of four slides with speaker notes. A single team member compiles and records the presentation with the addition of in introduction, overview, conclusion, and video clips of the project working.
For a team of six, this results in a 25-30 minute video. When editing time is taken into account, it’s a significant undertaking. For 4 credit course, this consumes a huge amount of available time that could otherwise be used on project development.
A less time-intensive method of documentation would be a great improvement.
On the whole, I found the course to be an effective learning experience. Even the items listed under weaknesses and opportunities are a kind of lesson for both students and course designers.
I certainly won’t be emphasizing languages and frameworks I’m only vaguely familiar with on my resume! Thanks to this course, I am now comfortable with .NET, C# and the Entity Framework for SQL databases in C#. It’s not quite the way I would have preferred to learn it, but I’m glad I did.
Thanks to the instructional team for some great lessons, both practical and personal.