Teaching Software Product Lines: A Snapshot of Current Practices and Challenges
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Software Product Line (SPL) engineering has emerged to provide the means to efficiently model, produce, and maintain multiple similar software variants, exploiting their common properties, and managing their variabilities (differences). With over two decades of existence, the community of SPL researchers and practitioners is thriving, as can be attested by the extensive research output and the numerous successful industrial projects. Education has a key role to support the next generation of practitioners to build highly complex, variability-intensive systems. Yet, it is unclear how the concepts of variability and SPLs are taught, what are the possible missing gaps and difficulties faced, what are the benefits, and what is the material available. Also, it remains unclear whether scholars teach what is actually needed by industry. In this article, we report on three initiatives we have conducted with scholars, educators, industry practitioners, and students to further understand the connection between SPLs and education, that is, an online survey on teaching SPLs we performed with 35 scholars, another survey on learning SPLs we conducted with 25 students, as well as two workshops held at the International Software Product Line Conference in 2014 and 2015 with both researchers and industry practitioners participating. We build upon the two surveys and the workshops to derive recommendations for educators to continue improving the state of practice of teaching SPLs, aimed at both individual educators as well as the wider community.