Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness of Learning for CS & SE Students Through Multiple Monitors

Project Title: Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness of Learning for CS & SE Students Through Multiple Monitors

Project Lead: Matthew Stephan


Phone: (513) 529-0335

Affiliation: CEC

Project Details: In this project we wish to create an environment for software engineering and computer science majors that replicates, as closely as possible, a workspace that is used by practicing software developers. Our goal is to transform one of our existing and most used laboratories into an open workspace. While our current labs have qualities of open workspaces, they fall short in one major aspect: the lack of a second monitor for each machine, which is becoming increasingly common in practice. This is not a luxury, but is vital for effective software development. For example, one monitor can be used for building a software component while the other is used to display reference materials, such as the API for a programming language or to display the code for another software component. In this project, we intend to outfit each computer in the Software Engineering Laboratory in Benton 10/11 with two monitors so that students can learn software development in an authentic environment that closely mirrors the kind of spaces found at contemporary software development organizations.

Problem Project Attempts to Solve: Software developers rarely develop software without the use of reference to community based solutions. In addition, developers are increasingly collaborating with both co-located AND distributed teammates. Furthermore, while programming, developers must constantly refer to system requirements and design models to ensure their implementations adhere to specifications. As such, the need for additional screen real estate is paramount to effective and efficient programming. A growing trend in open workspaces for software developers is the use of two or more monitors while developing software. Having multiple monitors facilitates quick context switches without disrupting the flow of the programming task. As it stands right now, the problem is that our students are constrained to a single monitor, which is unrepresentative of what they will be using in the real world and hinders their ability to effectively think and problem solve programmatically. The goal and our solution is to provide our students with an authentic development environment that allows them to learn skills that are often overlooked when educating software engineers and help them reach their full potential.

Does this project focus on Graduate Studies?: No

Does it meet tech fee criteria?: In the Software Engineering program we have been working towards providing a stronger foundation in experiential and authentic learning. We have made strides in providing projects that facilitate authentic learning. However, immersion in the projects will be enhanced by providing students with a learning environment that mirrors the kinds of environments found in the software development workplace. This proposal (and its sister proposal for large screens for team meetings) is part of our initiative to enhance authentic learning through the creation of an authentic software engineering learning laboratory. While we have been able to secure space with potential for an open workspace feel, the computing environment needs to be made complete as we have stated above in order to improve both the learning environment and the student experience. As fields like "Big Data" continue to emerge and software projects are getting more complex, multiple monitors become quite a necessity[1,2]. Part of the innovation here involves teaching the students how to best utilize multiple monitors to maximize their efficiency and productivity. This can include determining what kind of content to separate on each screen and how best to employ the additional real estate and natural multitasking that is afforded by multiple monitors. From an application development perspective, our User Interface course, CSE 212 Software Engineering for HCI, can now teach students how to design applications that best utilize multiple monitors.

How will you assess the project?: Studies show that using more than one monitor improves productivity. For example, researchers at the university of Utah found that students who used two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster performing tasks like editing a document than those with one monitor[3]. We believe that our computer science and software engineering students can improve efficiency by writing their code on one monitor while having their output on the other. Seeing immediate results of their work this way will certainly help them be more productive. An outcome that will be immediately measurable will be to explicitly teach students how to best problem solve and implement solutions using multiple monitors. To assess this outcome and its value, we can have them demonstrate their ability in the lab itself to harness the power of two monitors. Seeing as much lab work must be started and finished within a single lab period, such as two hours, assessing speed/efficiency is an outcome that can be quantified. In addition, for courses with the same instructor that use the same or similar labs from year to year, a correlation can be established in terms of quality of the software developed by the students that used one monitor in past offerings, and those that use two.

Have you received tech fee funding in the past?: Yes

What results were achieved?: Dr. Gannod has had several Tech Fee awards in the past, specifically in support of the Mobile Learning Center (MLC) and its related projects. The projects for the MLC were focused on technology acquisition in support of providing computer science and software engineering students with mobile technology at a time that such devices were not yet ubiquitous. The funding provided by the Tech Fee Program were a necessary bridge to the current state where students are now able to supply their own devices for software development purposes.

Did you submit a final report?: Yes

What happens to this project in year two?: There should not be any ongoing costs in terms of hardware maintenance. The only ongoing costs would be if the equipment breaks down. Fortunately, based on based experience, the students have been quite careful with the equipment in Benton, and there has been negligible damage, and wear and tear.

Hardware: Monitors: (36 workstations x 2 monitors = 72) x Dell P2214H IPS 22-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor; Poles: 72 x VIVO Single LCD Monitor Desk Mount Stand Articulating Foldable 1 Screen up to 30" (STAND-V001K); Cables/Adapters 72 x gofanco® Gold Plated 3 Feet Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter Cable - Black Thunderbolt Compatible MALE to MALE for Apple MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, Microsoft Surface Pro / Pro 2 / Pro 3 & Surface 3, Google Chromebook Pixel, and Laptops with Mini DisplayPort Ports to Connect to DVI Displays; Dual power adapter x 36 $6/each, $18,355.68

Total Budget: $18,355.68

Comments: [1] Grudin, Jonathan. "Partitioning digital worlds: focal and peripheral awareness in multiple monitor use." Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. ACM, 2001. [2] In Data Deluge, Multitaskers Go to Multiscreens, , Matt Richtel FEB. 7, 2012 [3] Colvin, Janet, Nancy Tobler, and Don Lindsay. "Productivity and multi-screen displays." Rocky Mountain Comm. Review 2: 1 2004 (2004): 31-53.