Didar Zowghi gave one of the most interesting talks at REET’09 I’ve heard in awhile titled Teaching Requirements Engineering to the Baha’I Students in Iran Who Are Denied of Higher Education. She was asked to teach a distance learning course on requirements engineering to these students from Australia to Iran.
She basically runs the course by teaching lectures using audio and displaying the lecture slides using Skype or LiveMeeting. However, they ran into issues with everything from bad audio connections, students who couldn’t see the visual slides, and even power outages. One improvement made eventually was to record her lectures so students could download them to play if they couldn’t hear for some reason during the live presentation. As a bonus, Didar said she learned of things she could work on by listening to herself lecture for the first time!
She had assignments for the students as well, but specifically she had a project where they had to interview a stakeholder to elicit and document requirements. She had a Teaching Assistant located in Iran who played the role of stakeholder – sometimes in person, sometimes by phone. She had the students use Karl Wieger’s templates since those were also easily downloadable.
Didar also makes time to chat with students – they might Skype her for example to find a time to chat verbally. I like to think of these as virtual office hours!
I found Didar’s talk to be so interesting based on the circumstances behind it – a great culture lesson that I thank her for. But I also find it quite relevant as we work to roll out global training programs. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the idea of how we will possibly have successful training with people on the other side of the world, but the reality is – you just make it work.