This repot briefly states and expresses my own thoughts and sentiments, perception of others, personality within study and work, attitudes towards personal activities and values as well a thorough analysis of all these aspects realized during the group project. In other words, I would like to share some of the self-realization and a few insights that I have picked up while doing the project.
Working on a group project means teamwork and being nice and considerate towards your team /group mates, this plays an integral part of the success of the project. Another thing that I quickly realized for myself was that the theoretical learning is not enough. Potential opportunities and actual experiences have a huge impact on perception, personality, attitudes and values on the learning process itself. As the cliché goes Learning is a continuous process and that experience is also one of the best teachers. Knowing is different from having the feel of it and really doing it in real life. This experience was like real work in the real job environment.
The group project taught me a lot about handling time and keeping to the schedule. It trained me to be mindful of the time and respect the time of others that am working with. Because of this, I realized how important planning and organization is, as well as managing my time and schedule not only when am working but also in my personal life. Although, this experience is more like a practice exercise, this is the first real hands on experience I ever had working as a team.
I always had an alternative opinion to every approach from our group leader, but we always found common ground after much deliberations and persuasion. This was very beneficial to our groups' effectiveness since there was no dominance from the leader in solving this problem of the communication issue between dentists and other parties.
First, I will give a short overview of our groups' development and then examine critically the reasons for our moderate level of motivation and the development of our team. Then I will discuss on how we were able to come up with a skeleton structure and design approach towards solving the problem, I will delve into my personal injection or contribution towards the project and lastly the take out I got from the whole experience in terms of academic knowledge as well as group project's dynamics.
The first group meeting was brain storming time in which intra-group conflicts prevailed. We were not in a consensus at all about how to attack the problem and the strategy to apply. All members participated actively, trying to impose their own point of view. Luckily we had a good group leader who was able to moderate us in a professional way. Before anything, we were all allocated different roles towards the project. I was chosen as the group's System designer a role I took with much gratitude since I am well endowed in this area.
The group project task was to design a communication system for the national dental service. The dental community consists of both members of the national dental service as well as private practitioners. This communication and consultation process was found wanting since they were using the traditional routines which are both costly and time-consuming. Communication is envisioned to take place not only within the dental community, but with authorities as well thus as the project designer I was to handle the task of developing a software solution solving the communicative issues within the dental community. The requirements and demands on the software had to be identified and analyzed properly. The design this software was not only to provide a working solution, but also to test my learning on a real working experience.
At the beginning the project design goals set included the following;
G.1. To produce a working system fulfilling the demands given.
G.2. To provide extensive documentation of the process.
G.3. To deliver the system on schedule (working with time).
G.4. To get extensive knowledge about project Design and implementation.
G.5. To acquire new technical knowledge and skills.
While undertaking the real design work I was first overwhelmed by the enormous work-to-do list that I drafted. The project involved a dynamic array of many approaches and possible outcomes. After much deliberation we were able to decide on the design approach which seemed best for the Communication System (DCS).
Next I had to come up with a task-list containing all the tasks that the system would handle. The task list also shows the problems and variants that could come up while performing each task. The tasks with data was designed to contain the same tasks, subtasks, problems and variants as the task list. It also contains two additional columns. The visible data column; this contains all the data needed to perform each subtask and the virtual window column; this contains the windows in which each task subtask will be carried out.
The Virtual windows design was hand drawn mock-ups, they were to display the graphical outline and the data needed for the specific window. The number of windows to be created was decided based upon the tasks-with-data artifact therefore the Six virtual windows drawn were; main window, case window, message window, image window, search participant window and search patient window. Then I designed the ranges of their functions. A problem arose in the approach of the design of the case history window. It was initially planned to display all current cases and finished cases at all times and a filter search, however during the implementation phase an inconsistency problem was noted thus the idea of the filter search was dismissed and replaced with a normal search function.
Initially I had set up the Mini-specs and the Functional presentation in the development of the prototype, however due to time constraints after the usability test was conducted the mini-specs and function presentation were not updated, instead it was decided to move right to the prototypes and do necessary changes.
The prototype I designed was derived from the virtual windows together with the semantic functions showing the windows with their functions and their graphical appearance. The prototype broadly consists of the main window which displayed after a user has logged on to the system, the Case window for creating a new case and viewing or editing a current case, the Message for creating new messages and for viewing or editing existing messages, the Image Edit for adding circles, arrows and numbers to make it easier for other participants to see where they should look more carefully and the Search patient window meant for searching patients that already exist in the database.
The database was designed to create a relational schema. It was agreed that this was necessary in order to identify which tables were needed, the information to be stored in each table and in what way the tables should relate to each other. Primary and foreign keys were identified, and relationships in the E/R model were converted into references between tables where applicable. Based on the relational schema, suitable data types for each column were defined. Taken into consideration was the type of information to be stored and in what way it was to be treated. The next step was to produce a database table description that easily could be converted into SQL code. Mistakes arose in the translation to relational schema, but these were easily corrected and did not constitute any major un-doing. For example, I had merged the specializes-in relationship between the User and Category entity sets as a single attribute to the User entity. This would have hindered a user from specializing in more than one category. I then translated it into an entity set of its own, allowing both multiple user and category instances.
The Database Management System of choice was MySQL 5.0 due to its ease-of-use and access. Another huddle was the functional design, but it was soon decided that at least four different layers were needed. First of all, the GUI layer, handling the parts for the graphical user interfaces, i.e. buttons, text boxes and menus. Each window is represented by at least one GUI class. To keep the GUI separated from the actual logic and functionality, a controller layer was also deemed necessary. I also decided that each major entity in the data model (Case, Message, Patient, User and Attachment) should be represented by unique classes in the object layer to further divide responsibility and increase modularization. The fourth layer was to be the database layer, handling all database communication.
After much consultation I decided to create the class diagram with Poseidon UML [e], and group the classes in packages with similar functionality and purpose. However during the implementation phase, some classes were found to be superfluous thus I added others. Also, some functionality specified during the analysis and design phases had to be re-evaluated.
Unfortunately the due to the shortage of time, some unforeseen issues could not be solved in a way that the functionality was preserved according to what had been specified during the analysis and design phases. Instead, deviations from the specification had to be made to ensure basic functionality and delivery on time. For example the main deviation is the modified search function in the main window. According to the specification, the search function should be dynamic and constantly update the list of cases displayed.
All in all as reported in the group write up I obtained a deeper understanding about the domain area was gotten as the project took shape, and some ideas came up that had not been reviewed in the earlier stages of the project. Hence, some additional functionality such as the main window, the possibility exists to search patient and the possibility to add new patient were added.
In conclusion, Working in this group proved to be a worthy cause, besides the numerous challenges and technical glitches I was able to play my part in design and implementation well. Our group leader proved to be such an insight since he played the role with dedication and diligence even when most of us looked to slacken the mission, lastly I am very grateful to my fellow group mates for the commitment and support they showed in ensuring that we solved the task at hand amicably, in good time and most importantly on achieved all the goals set out for this project.