Deconstructing the Tower of Babel: a design method to improve empathy and teamwork competences of informatics students

  • Teresa Blanco
  • Ignacio López-Forniés
  • Francisco Javier Zarazaga-Soria


The competence-based education recently launched in Spanish universities presents a set of abilities and skills that are difficult to teach to students in higher and more technologically-oriented grades. In this paper, a teaching intervention that is based on design methodologies is proposed, to upgrade the competitive capacities of computer engineering students. In particular, this intervention targets those aspects relating to working in multidisciplinary teams and to defining requirements based on the user’s empathy and knowledge. The main idea inspiring this technique is that the underlying challenge is a communication problem. As Brooks (1995) states in his book The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, even a project having all of the prerequisites for success (a clear mission, manpower, materials, time and adequate technology) could fail as a Tower of Babel. The proposed technique through mixed methods has been evaluated with students enrolled in different courses, confirming the repeatability and validity of this method from quantitative measurement, from observation of the results, and from ascertaining the value perceived by students and their attitudes.


Design Creative thinking User empathy Requirements definition Teamwork Interdisciplinary Shared understanding Human computer interaction Collaborative learning 



This work has been partially supported by the Spanish Government (Project TIN2012-37826-C02-01).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aragon Institute of Engineering ResearchUniversidad de ZaragozaSaragossaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Design Engineering and ManufacturingUniversity of ZaragozaSaragossaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Computer Science and Systems EngineeringUniversidad de ZaragozaSaragossaSpain

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