[Written by Mikko Mononen]
Mikko Mononen participated Open Data -project. He is an expert in Tampere University. Other experts who participated the project where Aleksi Roima ja Jaan Taponen. Project was coached by Emma Partanen.
This is our story of how ambitious ideas met reality in a quest to build a useful service around open data published by the Tampere higher education community.
Picture 1. Brainstorming at the workshop. (Picture by Emma Partanen)
Have you ever missed an interesting course, just to find about it after registration period? Or have you ever wanted to browse useful courses outside your academic bubble? Finding the right course for you can be occasionally problematic and we wanted to solve this problem. This is our story of how ambitious ideas met reality in a quest to build a useful service around open data published by the Tampere higher education community.
The project started in late January by individual meetings with our project coach and our group of three first met each other in a group meeting on February 1st. During the group meeting, we discussed the ideas we had and what we could do with the data. It was clear the limitations in the data limited our choices for the project’s goal. Thus, we decided to implement a service improving discoverability of courses by recommending them based on anonymized course feedback would be a worthy but achievable goal for our project.
After the initial ideation, we wanted to hear other ideas and opinions about the service. Our group held a workshop for selected personnel and students on the 22nd of February. After brainstorming and voting our original idea had the most support from workshop participants, and we started working on the implementation. After the feedback from the workshop, we felt we were building something meaningful and usable to our higher education community. At this point, we had already met most of the people we collaborated with during the project. The assistance of SCIL helped us to reach most of them.
To start with, working with people in a newly united University was a great and unique learning experience. Secondly, the project had a named customer, unlike regular course projects at University. Having a customer helped us to focus on what was important for the project and completing our goals felt more rewarding, as in real-world projects.
Picture 2. Our plans from the technical palaver a week after the workshop.
Although dividing responsibilities among the group members was a natural process and everybody could work on project areas they wanted, we had our own share of setbacks. As we now knew what data we needed, we asked for permissions to have that data. Eventually, it was clear we couldn’t acquire much of the data we originally thought we needed for the service. We revisited our design and dropped the parts we couldn’t implement because of lacking data. Killing your darlings, as a saying in the game and the software design world goes regarding dropped features, is never painless.
During the project, we communicated mainly by weekly conference calls with Skype and in dedicated Slack channels. We had a Git repository as our version-control and we coordinated our tasks with Trello. Working exceedingly online was as a result of our busy schedules. In a project like this with a small-scale team online coordinated independent work was the best compromise.
At the end of April, our project was also at the end. We did not finish the product, but we learned a myriad of important lessons working with the project. Working with the project differs from a regular course work as the project is teamwork from the start to the end. In a project, everything is scheduled, and if something is impossible to implement in the timeframe, we drop the feature from the final product. Communication among the group and with the other people involved is important, as it is important to compose your message clearly and in a few lines of text if possible.
When we first started working with the project, neither of us has heard much about SCIL. We didn’t know what the other projects were, or how working with SCIL would differ from working with regular course projects. To start with, working with people in a newly united University was a great and unique learning experience. Secondly, the project had a named customer, unlike regular course projects at University. Having a customer helped us to focus on what was important for the project and completing our goals felt more rewarding, as in real-world projects.
Working with SCIL-project have been exciting and everything SCIL-related has worked well. Our project coach answered our course-related questions quickly in Slack or in conference calls. The only regret we have regarding the course was the unfinished end-result, but hopefully, others pick up and finish the work we started.
Project’s Git repository (readme in Finnish): https://github.com/JaanTaponen/open-data