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C4 model in a Software Engineering subject to ease the comprehension of UML and the software development process

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Conference paper presented at EDUCON 2020

Vázquez-Ingelmo, A., García-Holgado, A., & García-Peñalvo, F. J. (2020). C4 model in a Software Engineering subject to ease the comprehension of UML and the software development process. In 2020 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), (27-30 April 2020, Porto, Portugal). IEEE.

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C4 model in a Software Engineering subject to ease the comprehension of UML and the software development process

  1. 1. C4 model in a Software Engineering subject to ease the comprehension of UML and the software development process Andrea Vázquez-Ingelmo1, Alicia García-Holgado1, Francisco J. García-Peñalvo1 1GRIAL Research Group. University of Salamanca {andreavazquez, aliciagh, fgarcia}@usal.es EDUCON 2020
  2. 2. Contents 1. Introduction 2. Objective 3. Context 4. The problem 5. The C4 Model 6. Actions 7. C4 Model application example 8. Discussion and conclusions
  3. 3. 1. Introduction • Software Engineering I is a mandatory subject in the second semester of the Degree in Computer Science at the University of Salamanca (Spain) • At this point, they have already acquired programming and computational skills
  4. 4. 1. Introduction • The higher levels of abstraction required by software engineering makes it complex for the students and also challenging to teach • In previous years, different changes have been introduced in the teaching methods, like Project-Based Learning (PBL) and active methodologies • Although that, students are still facing difficulties with one of the core contents of the subject: UML
  5. 5. 1. Introduction • One of the main difficulties faced is the gap that students perceive between the systems they model and the systems they have actually coded
  6. 6. 2. Objective This paper proposes the introduction of a new approach for documenting software as a complement of UML in the subject of Software Engineering I: the C4 model
  7. 7. 3. Context • The whole course is driven by milestones following the software development process • These milestones are Requirements elicitation Domain model Use-case realization
  8. 8. 3. Context • The sessions in which UML is explained are structured following this model 1. Use-case diagrams are presented to lay the foundations of requirement elicitation 2. Class diagrams are explained at analysis level, omitting implementation-level details 3. Sequence and communication diagrams are introduced
  9. 9. 3. Context • Students must apply the acquired knowledge to analyze and document their own information system (their final project) • For this project, teachers propose a generic goal that the system must accomplish • Students have the freedom to design any type of system that lets users reaching the goal
  10. 10. 4. The problem • One of the main issues students face is the conceptualization of the system • If the conceptualization phase is poorly carried out, it could affect the rest of the phases, given the incremental nature of the project • The C4 model offers a syntax that could make the conceptualization and abstraction of a system’s functionality a less convoluted task
  11. 11. 5. The C4 model • C4 model divides the system in four levels • Each of these levels is focused on a certain perspective of the system • The C4 Model was defined by Simon Brown https://c4model.com/ Context Containers Components Code
  12. 12. 5. The C4 model
  13. 13. 6. Actions • Introduction of the C4 model at the requirements elicitation phase • The simplified syntax of the C4 model is set to help them identify main actors, external systems and internal components • The two first levels of the C4 model are employed, letting students design their systems at high-level Requirements elicitation
  14. 14. 6. Actions • At the end of the semester, when students have developed their final project, they are asked to do another C4 model of the final system • This C4 model should be similar to the one developed at the beginning, but with the specific components that are part of their solution
  15. 15. 7. C4 model application example • During the 2018-2019 course, the final project consisted in designing a system that accomplish the goal of promoting diversity in business contexts • Although the ideas fulfilled the project requirements, students had trouble documenting them with UML • Using the C4 model, students could combine the static nature of the system with its functionality, easing the recognition of conceptual classes and use cases
  16. 16. 7. C4 model application example Context view of a proposed inclusive hiring system using the C4 model
  17. 17. 7. C4 model application example Container view of a proposed inclusive hiring system using the C4 model
  18. 18. 7. C4 model application example • Functionality of the user management container outlined in the C4 model
  19. 19. 7. C4 model application example • By detecting the relationships among containers at the first stage of the project, students can rely on these associations and the information requirements of each container to build their domain model • Finally, the third milestone is focused on the development of interaction diagrams • These can be easily added to the C4 model at its last level (code-level), relating them to the specific use-cases hold in a container
  20. 20. 7. C4 model application example Sequence diagram that represents the modification of business data within the proposed hiring system
  21. 21. 8. Discussion and conclusions • Students encounter a lot of barriers that are drawn across the rest of the milestones if conceptualization issues are not solved at the beginning of the course • This model could help students with the organization of functionalities at the requirements elicitation phase • Students can work with a methodology closer to businesses contexts, that can be understood by the stakeholders • This methodology is also closer to the reality of how systems are being currently developed (e.g., distributed components, communication through API calls, etc.)
  22. 22. 8. Discussion and conclusions • The C4 model does not replace the UML language, it wraps and refactors it in more manageable pieces • The fourth level of the C4 model can be represented through UML diagrams • This proposal will be applied in the forthcoming years • The analysis of the learning experience will be carried out in the long-term in order to rely on meaningful samples from different academic years
  23. 23. C4 model in a Software Engineering subject to ease the comprehension of UML and the software development process Andrea Vázquez-Ingelmo1, Alicia García-Holgado1, Francisco J. García-Peñalvo1 1GRIAL Research Group. University of Salamanca {andreavazquez, aliciagh, fgarcia}@usal.es EDUCON 2020

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