Teaching with Mendix: How a WPI Professor Uses a Low-Code Platform to Help Facilitate Her Syllabus


on November 28, 2017

In a previous blog post, I outlined how a professor at Boston College uses Mendix to eliminate technical debt in classrooms. Professor Bengisu Tulu at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was facing a similar challenge in her Systems Design and Development class: her students come from a wide range of development and programming experience.

For professor Tulu, it was especially challenging to evaluate her students’ knowledge on certain aspects of development when each student developed their projects in different environments and at different paces. For example, students who developed in WordPress delivered an entirely different output than students developing in Android studio. Each student would face different problems related to their development environments, and troubleshooting became a nightmare.  

The Mendix Solution

Mendix is a low-code application development platform that allows students who don’t know how to code to develop mobile and web applications quickly and easily. No programming experience needed! Professor Tulu revised her entire curriculum and syllabus over the summer in order to use Mendix in the graduate System Design & Development course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which is one of the required courses for the MS IT program at WPI.

The Mendix platform enables the students to better develop their skills rather than struggling with many different technologies and empowers professor Tulu to better evaluate her students. Using Mendix to facilitate the curriculum ensures that everyone, students and professor, is on the same page and can work through challenges together.

Mendix gives the students an opportunity to foster a valuable skill set within the industry to ensure their readiness to find a job once they graduate.” – Professor Tulu, System Design & Development, WPI

Introducing Mendix to the WPI Classroom

Starting this school year, Professor Tulu’s System Design & Development class began using a free license of the Mendix Platform as their development environment. The focus of the course is the design and development of computer-based information systems to support business needs. The course examines all aspects of this task and uses Mendix to help facilitate the identification of a business need, analysis of the processes, and the specification of business requirements.

Using Mendix as the development environment will help students gain knowledge on all aspects of the systems development lifecycle, from project identification through project planning and management, requirements identification and specification, process and data modeling, system architecture and security, interface design, and implementation and change management.

Learning Mendix

Professor Tulu and her teaching assistant invested time in learning the Mendix platform by attending the three-day introduction course classroom training at the Mendix office in Boston. As a result of the training, both of them completed the rapid developer exam and received their Mendix certification. The Mendix introduction training provided the information necessary for the TA to offer the students weekly Mendix training sessions outside of the classroom. Students also have access to the online training and documentation. So far, the students have been warming up to Mendix through their homework assignments.

Working in Sprints to Build a Real-World Application on Mendix

Professor Tulu is adamant about enabling her students to become self-taught, therefore she does not use Mendix during class, but instead uses the platform as the tool to enforce what she teaches and to deliver the projects within the syllabus. The cornerstone of the course is a team project that the students will deliver with Mendix. All teams are building a student job application management system for the Foisie Business School.

This project focuses on harnessing technology to solve a particular business problem. WPI offers many opportunities for graduate assistants within the business school, and assigning students to faculty members is a manual process at the moment. The process is managed through SharePoint, excel and other technologies that are very limited and cumbersome. The process of student submissions and faculty hires is all done at the same time, in the beginning of the semester, with only one administrator managing all the communication.  The limited resources mean that the communication is incomplete, where only students who did receive a job offer get notified.

The students of Professor Tulu’s class are automating this process through Mendix. Each project team consists of 4-5 members and the students will adopt agile by working in sprints to deliver the final project to the client. Through only an 11-week timeline, the students will conduct a planning, analysis and design workshop, a demo of their first working prototype, and a final implementation of their project.

At the end of the course, the students will be able to deploy their working application and understand how to implement security in their apps.

Conclusion

Using Mendix in the classroom enables the students to learn what goes into the entire application lifecycle, from ideate to build to iterate to deploy. Students can work in one development environment that enables consistency and rapid application development, even with varying experience. With Mendix, Professor Tulu can understand how well the students are grasping aspects of development and evaluate her students on a consistent and even scale.