MC39 Project Notes (Spring 1999)

Consider the following two related questions:
  1. What should you discuss at your initial team meeting?
  2. How will you be graded for the project portion of the course?

The relationship between these topics is this: I will grade you in accordance with the goals you establish for yourselves. It is up to you to decide what the deliverables of your team are. If you decide that all there is going to be is a working program at the end of the semester, then that is what you will be graded on -- all or nothing. If, on the other hand, you establish a timetable in which there are other deliverables scheduled along the way -- such as a requirements document, one or more design documents, an interface mock-up, a web page of information for users, a suite of test cases, etc. -- then you will be graded on each of them, and you will have less of an "all the eggs in one basket" problem. But it is really up to you. Similarly, my default mode of grading will be to give the same grade to all members of the team. However, if you establish specific assignments of responsibility, then I will grade each team member on those items he or she is responsible for (as well as including a common grade portion for those items not assigned). Each portion of the project for which an individual is assigned responsibility needs some mechanism for separate assessment. For example, if someone has responsibility for programming a module, then that person must show test results for that module in isolation in order to show that it works, rather than just combining it with all the other modules and leaving it to me to figure out which ones work and which don't.

These matters of establishing goals should be a primary topic for your initial meeting -- defining deliverables, scheduling a timetable for the various milestones, and assigning responsibility. I will expect to have email within the first week telling me how I am to grade your team.

The other big topic to discuss is your team organization. Are you going to designate people to play specific organizational roles (like keeping meetings on task, recording decisions, and monitoring schedule compliance) or are you going to rotate these roles around from week to week on some basis? Or are you going to work on an unstructured basis purely as equals? Are you going to meet at specific times? I will expect to meet once a week during our class time with your team (I'll let each team know which day), but you might want to schedule other meetings as well.

I have one final piece of advice, good both for this project and for the real world: communicate, communicate, communicate. Your boss will be furious if the first she or he hears that you are having problems is when the deadline rolls around and there is no deliverable. Keep me posted all along the way. That way I'll be able to get you the help you need, and at minimum won't have a nasty surprise waiting for me at the end.

Good luck! -max