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Beyond Static Assignments in Software Development Education

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    Evan Grim

Beyond Static Assignments in Software Development Education


In today's fast-paced software development industry, the demand for skilled and adaptable developers is at an all-time high. To prepare the next generation of developers for real-world challenges, it is essential to go beyond traditional static assignments and provide a more dynamic and collaborative learning experience. This article explores the benefits of incorporating real-world practices into development classes, fostering critical skills that go beyond easy grading and ultimately empower students to thrive in their future careers.

The Limitations of Static Assignments

While traditional development classes often assign static and finite homework, such an approach may not adequately prepare students for the realities of professional software design. These assignments tend to prioritize easy grading over fostering valuable skills. In the real world, software development is a fluid process, where adaptability and collaboration play a pivotal role.

Embracing Real-World Practices

Imagine a development class that treats students as clients with real needs or ideas, but not yet fully defined. Instead of presenting pre-determined assignments, the students, as a group, engage in an interactive process with the "client" (instructor) to discover the requirements. This approach encourages them to identify hidden requirements, ask follow-up questions, and think critically about the problem at hand.

Generating a Cursory Design

In this dynamic learning environment, students work together to generate a cursory design. They draw sketches and diagrams, collaboratively creating a list of requirements. The instructor acts as a guide, helping the students navigate the design process and understand the importance of meeting client expectations.

Researching and Making Group Decisions

To further simulate real-world scenarios, students research and explore open-source solutions to address their project's needs. As a group, they advocate for their preferred solutions, learning to make important decisions collectively and recognize the value of compromise. The significance of living with these decisions reflects the pressures of working in a professional setting, where choices must be carefully considered.

Submitting Assignments as GitHub Branches

Instead of traditional submissions, students turn in their assignments as GitHub branches. The instructor may select specific branches to review, highlighting exemplary features or coding practices. This process not only emphasizes the importance of collaboration and code comprehension but also introduces students to the concept of working with existing code, a common aspect of real-world development.

Adapting to Changes

As in the real world, where client needs can evolve, the development class incorporates the necessity for change. Students may encounter instances where the client (instructor) realizes the need for something different from the original plan. This introduces the concept of iteration, where students must adapt and make necessary adjustments, mirroring professional development practices.

Benefits for Students

By embracing these real-world practices, development classes can offer several benefits to students. Firstly, they gain practical experience in interacting with clients and understanding the importance of clear requirements. Secondly, students learn the value of teamwork and collaboration, as they work together to make decisions and build software collectively. Additionally, the exposure to open-source solutions and code reviews helps them become well-rounded developers, capable of tackling various challenges.


As the demand for skilled developers continues to rise, it is crucial to equip students with the necessary tools and experiences to succeed in the software development industry. Moving beyond static assignments and introducing real-world practices not only provides a more meaningful learning experience but also prepares students to face the dynamic and ever-changing landscape of modern development. By fostering adaptability, collaboration, and critical thinking, development classes can empower the next generation of developers to thrive in their careers and make a lasting impact on the software industry.