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Research into Software Engineering Education by Timothy C. Lethbridge

Since 1997 I have been involved in researching and developing the field of software engineering education. Among my activities have been the following:

For a full list of all my publications on software engineering education, please see my publications page.


Results of the 1998 Computer Science and Software Engineering Education Relevance Survey

This survey, conducted from May to October 1998, collected data from over 200 software practitioners, from which a balanced sample of 180 were used to create the results presented here. The goals of the research were to gather data that would be of use to those designing, improving and accrediting academic programs in software engineering, as well as to those training software engineers who are already practicing in industry.

Subsets of these results been published in the May 2000 edition of IEEE Computer and in the Journal of Systems and Software. Full references are as follows:

The participants were asked four questions about each of 75 topics that they might have studied in their formal education, or learned later on the job. The questions asked 1) What they had learned in their formal education about the topic; 2) What they know now about each topic; 3) How important the details of each topic has been to them; and 4) How influential the topic has been to their lives.

The survey was international in scope, with participation from the USA, Canada, the UK and several other countries. It was conducted by Dr. Timothy C. Lethbridge, with the assistance of researchers from several other universities and the Consortium for Software Engineering Research

The definitive results can be found in two places:

  • University of Ottawa Computer Science Technical Report TR-99-06 (700KB)

    This is a comprehensive document that presents many different analyses of the data. Versions of the 81 page document are also available in MS-Word (over 6MB), pdf (570KB) and Postscript (over 2MB)

  • A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

    This contains the data that was compiled into the technical report. You can look at the data from various different perspectives and rearrange it yourself to obtain different views. Note that the data is presented in the aggregate to protect the anonymity of individual participants

A Summary of the most important results:

You can look at the original web page used to gather data, however no further data is being collected.


Older Material: Results of the 1997 Computer Science / Software Engineering Education Relevance Survey

This survey, conducted from May to September 1997 served as a pilot for the 1998 survey and collected 168 detailed responses from people about their computer science or software engineering education and its relevance to their careers.

The participants were given a list of topics in math, computer science, engineering, business and humanities, and were asked four questions about them: How much they learned about the topic in university; how much they know now; how important the topic has been in their career; and how important it would be for them to learn more about the topic. Subjects were also asked a variety of demographic questions (e.g. their experience level, kind of work performed etc.)

Following presentation of the results of this survey at the Conference On Software Engineering Education and Training (Atlanta, Feb 98), strong interest was expressed in expanding the survey to cover other sectors of the industry. Results of this work are in the 1998 survey, described above.

Slides presented at CSEET '98 in Atlanta. These include graphs showing the data in detail (also included in the journal paper below), as well as an outline of the University of Ottawa's Software Engineering program (which there was no time to present). This is also available in the original Powerpoint and Postscript formats.

In depth paper about the study published in volume 6 (1998) of Annals of Software Engineering

Raw summarized data from the survey, giving the list of software topics that were found to be most important in the careers of the participants.

Raw summarized data from the survey, suggesting the topics for which companies might best invest in training of their employees

Raw summarized data from the survey, giving the list of software topics that found to be either over or under-emphasized in universities

Raw summarized data from the survey, giving the list of software topics that software engineers tended to learn most while 'on the job'.

Study published at the Conference on Software Engineering Education and Training, February 1998

MS Word documents containing Cover letter and Paper version of the survey.

The research was conducted by Dr. Timothy C. Lethbridge, School of Information Technology and Engineering , University of Ottawa.

A large amount of support was received from the Consortium for Software Engineering Research (CSER) and from various companies (who remain anonymous for reasons of confidentiality). Most participation was from Canada, although about a third was from the United States and a few percent were from other countries.


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