Professor receives NSF grant to study global work teams that develop and write computer software

Thursday, August 30, 2007

In the modern global economy, employees increasingly find themselves working in teams and on projects with people in different time zones and countries. The National Science Foundation has awarded a nearly half-million dollar grant to a University of North Texas professor of computer science and engineering to study the performance of student work teams in four countries as the teams write software.

Dr. Kathleen Swigger's project will focus on issues related to supporting distributed programmers working on large software projects here at UNT and in Turkey, Panama and the United Kingdom.

Swigger says that because outsourcing of computer programming is here to stay, "there is a growing need to ensure that computer science students are taught the necessary skills to deal with this new type of programming."

"Students need to know how to use technology to work in culturally mixed and geographically distributed work teams because distributed software development is becoming the norm," she says.

The $499,252 project will create curriculum materials to teach students the best ways to work more effectively in global software teams. The students will learn how to develop software when team members come from different cultures and work in different time zones.

"We'll be closely looking at the interaction between the teams as well as how much is actually done. People who are closer together typically interact more and perform better," Swigger says. "The UNT team and the team in Panama have about the same time zone difference as the teams in Great Britain and Turkey, so we will be seeing what sort of interaction happens among the teams."

Swigger says her research will have implications for geographically distributed collaborative learning teams in general, and furthers UNT's reputation as a student-centered, public research university.

She adds the project also has drawn interest from several major Dallas-Fort Worth employers.

"Travelocity, Boeing and Lockheed Martin do similar projects at their companies, and they are acting as advisors on the project," she says.

Dr. Oscar Garcia, the founding dean of the UNT College of Engineering, says the NSF award emphasizes "the dual role of UNT in collaboration and in international activities."

"It is recognition of the exceptional research carried out in Texas institutions in general and at UNT in particular," he says.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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