web-based e-learning tool for UML class diagrams

The paper presents a web-based tool designed to give support to teaching and learning of UML class diagrams. The proposed UML environment is capable to correct automatically UML class diagrams exercises providing feedback to the student immediately. The tool is part of a more general framework, denoted ACME, which provides the main functionalities of an elearning platform. The tool has been used in a first experimental group of an introductory database course.

Traditionally, a database course uses entity-relationship diagrams (ERD) when teaching conceptual modeling. Describe ERD and how to use them to illustrate conceptual database design is one of the main objectives of an introductory database course [1]. But, despite the popularity of ERD, in last years, different authors have proposed the UML (Unified Modeling Language) class diagram as an alternative to be used instead of ERD notation. The UML [2] is the standard language for modeling objectoriented applications and is commonly used in the development of software applications. Although, this methodology was developed mainly for software design, a major part of software design involves designing the databases that will be accessed by the software modules. Hence, an important part of the UML is the class diagrams. A class diagram is a type of diagram that describes the static structure of a system by showing the system’s classes and the relationships between them. Therefore, it can be considered that class diagrams are similar to ERD in many ways [3]. Moreover, UML provides an advantage with respect to entity-relationship model (ER) since it is widely understood within the computing community, whereas ER is limited primarily to the database community. In non-academic environments, UML has emerged as an effective modeling tool for database design. On the contrary, it is still rare to see UML class diagram as the primary notation when teaching conceptual data modeling [4]. In academic textbooks the primary modeling techniques are based on ER notation. However, this tendency is changing in recent versions of the books, and chapters presenting UML methodology for conceptual modeling are included [5]. There are also different books focused only on the use of UML for database design [6,7]. These books claim that UML make closer database design with the real business applications. We agree with [8,9] that this new tendency has to be taken into account in basic database courses, and hence UML class diagram notation has to be taught as well as ERD. Since building UML class diagrams is a complex process, we decided to develop a web-based tool to support its teaching and learning. This tool has being integrated in a more general elearning framework, denoted ACME-DB, used in database courses of our university. The ACME-DB is used as a support for teaching and learning of the main topics of the course, amongst them, entity-relationship diagrams, relational database schemas, database normalization, SQL and relational algebra. This environment also provides the functionalities required to automatically correct exercises, continuous assessment, etc. The goal of this paper is to present the UML developed tool

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