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Resilience of Distributed Student Teams to Stress Factors: a Longitudinal Case-study



Igor Cavrak , Ivana Bosnic , Federico Ciccozzi, Raffaela Mirandola

Publication Type:

Journal article


Information and Software Technology


Context: Teaching global software engineering is continuously evolving and improving to prepare future software engineers adequately. Geographically distributed work in project-oriented software development courses is both demanding and rewarding for student teams, who are susceptible to various risks stemming from different internal and external factors, being the sources of stress and impacting team performance.Objective: In this paper, we analyze the resilience of teams of students working in a geographically fully distributed setting. Resilience is analyzed in relation to two representative stress factors: non-contributing team members and changes to customer project requirements. We also reason on team collaboration patterns and analyze potential dependencies among these collaboration patterns, team resilience and stress factors.Method: We conduct a longitudinal case-study over five years on our Distributed Software Development (DSD) course. Based on empirical data, we study team resilience to two stress factors by observing their impact on process and product quality aspects of team performance. The same performance aspects are studied for identified collaboration patterns, and bidirectional influence between patterns and resilience is investigated.Results: Teams with up to two non-contributing members experience graceful degradation of performance indicators. A large number of non-contributing students almost guarantees the occurrence of educationally undesirable collaboration patterns. Exposed to requirements change stress, less resilient teams tend to focus on delivering the functional product rather than retaining a proper development process.Conclusions: Practical recommendations to be applied in contexts similar to our case have been provided at the end of the study. They include suggestions to mitigate the sources of stress, for example, by careful planning the team organization and balancing the number of regular and exchange students, or by discussing the issue of changing requirements with the external customers before the start of the project.


author = {Igor Cavrak and Ivana Bosnic and Federico Ciccozzi and Raffaela Mirandola},
title = {Resilience of Distributed Student Teams to Stress Factors: a Longitudinal Case-study},
volume = {51},
number = {6},
month = {May},
year = {2019},
journal = {Information and Software Technology},
url = {}