Bonus Track (K) 2015
Bonus Track (K)

Session type: Bonus

Shirley Atkinson – Teaching Agile – Live Blog 2015

Shirley Atkinson is a lecturer and programme manager for BSC (Hons) Computing at Plymouth University. Shirley has a passion for ensuring industry relevant content is shared enthusiastically with students learning to become computing professionals. You can catch up with Shirley on Twitter.



After a career in industry she became disillusioned by the culture of promising the moon to the client, before wondering why developers can’t always deliver.

How can academia ensure that students are ready to contribute to the workplace as soon as they leave. By encouraging students to explore new ideas and experiences and to attend industry events she has seen growth beyond that which is taught.


Teaching is scaffolded but its important to realise that every student is different. Encouragement, challenge and discussion helps personal and professional growth. Industry has to help to reenforce the learning  from the class room.

Shirley uses her industry expertise to supplement the theory’s taught in class. Theory is important, after all exams are based on theory. Plymouth University have been teaching aspects of Agile from day one, but a deeper integration in warranted.

The first year will have mentors coming into the class to tell students exactly what it’s like in the workplace. The intention is to give students real world tasks with accurate timelines to further support this learning.



Students don’t like group work but industry wants students that work well in a team. This is one of the area that Shirley is hoping to address. Group work often has a predictable team dynamic with one student who does the majority of the work.

Agile is a fluid field. At university they need to explore the ideas across the spectrum. Often students think they know Agile but in reality there is a gap between understanding and reality. Choosing a appropriate methodology is as important and using any methodology.

This year the entire curriculum has been torn up and started again in an Agile way. Following student feedback group work has been reduced as some had 5 group assignments. Instead there is a focus on quality of the group assignments.

How can Universities engage better with Industry?

The floor suggests that open source projects are a good way to encourage student interaction with industry.

Another suggests that grass roots movements such as Meetups groups are a great way. It connects people in an informal setting with possibly less anxiety for some people.

The consensus seems to be that ideas are not thin on the ground, instead it is often the lack of suitable locations and people to run them.