Global Software Engineering: Learning by Osmosis




Global Software Engineering (GSE) not only presents several new challenges to software development researchers and practitioners, but it also highlights the important role that educators are expected to play in terms of providing the future software engineers with new kinds of knowledge, understanding, and skills in order to successfully cope with the GSE challenges. Graduates of software engineering degree should be expected to work in software development teams comprising of people with a wide variety of cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds and geographically and temporally distributed. Moreover, the team members are expected to have different set of skills, which may also be required by other team members. It is claimed that certain technical skills can be learned by working with experts in a team; this kind of learning is called learning by osmosis. Patricia Lago (VU University, Amsterdam) and Henry Muccini (University of L’Aquila), and I are investigating whether international students can compensate the extra effort required to deal with communication, coordination, and collaboration issues that characterise GSE projects with learning by osmosis.

Our study context is a complementary module with a shared project offered to students at two different Universities, that is, two courses running in parallel at different locations and on complementary topics, with a unique shared project covering both topics. The results from our empirical study show that there was no statistically significant difference between the performance of local and international teams. We assert that the students in international teams were able to perform as well as the students in the local teams as a result of learning by osmosis. We intend to carry out further studies on different aspects of the role and importance of learning by osmosis in GSE in order to build a body of knowledge which can benefit GSE educators and practitioners. We are also encouraging others to replicate or conduct similar studies to contribute to GSE through education and training.