Virtual Teams + Virtual Projects = Real Learning

Adele Goldberg
Neometron, Inc.


LearningWorks is a learning environment in which to explore ideas about computing and software system architectures, making use of a programming language that supports object modeling with dynamic modeling and libraries of selected objects. The environment supports the ability to create, access, and explore curriculum that emphasizes individual and group software construction activities. LearningWorks consists of four frameworks: a LearningBook presentation and interaction framework that forms the basic user model, a programming framework that permits customization of the toolset and library of reusable assets based on learner skill level, an authoring framework for creating LearningBooks, and a team communications framework that supports real-time network-based exchange of software under development by a team of students.

The curriculum we designed [Goldberg, 1995] includes a team project. Students, who may reside in geographically separated locations, can form teams and work together on the Internet to do this project. They can share their work by sharing LearningBooks containing the work of each subteam. The pages of each subteams book contain code that fulfills the subteams system requirements, test suite, documentation, and example uses. The peer-to-peer communications framework that supports real-time sharing of LearningBooks is based on SPLINE, developed at the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratory [Anderson, 1996; Barrus, 1996].

The ability to learn good software development practices depends on a students ability to put theory to practice, and to do so often and with diversity. We are proposing that one way to offer the opportunity for such practice is to find potential team members on the Internet (as well as within ones own classes or school), and to learn how to set up an effective development process where these team members work together despite potentially diverse backgrounds and project management skills or expectations. To support faculty interested in trying out this idea, we have build and are offering LearningWorks and its curriculum as freeware available on our Web site (


Biographical Sketch

Dr. Adele Goldberg is currently a founder of Neometron, Inc., a Texas-based company working towards Intranet support for self-managed teams. Previously, she served as Chairman of the Board and a founder of ParcPlace-Digitalk, Inc. until April, 1996. ParcPlace created application development environments based on object-oriented technology and sold to corporate programmers. Prior to the creation of ParcPlace, Adele received a Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of Chicago and spent 14 years as researcher and laboratory manager of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Solely and with others, Adele wrote the definitive books on the Smalltalk-80 programming system and has authored numerous papers on project management and analysis methodology using object-oriented technology.
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