Enhanced Collaborative Space for Learning Entity-Relationship Modeling

by Allen D
When students are first introduced to Entity Relationship Diagrams, the concept may not stick very well. According to researchers at the Monash University, Entity Relation Diagrams are easier to describe and be graphically examined than creating a description in text. When database designers face a series of complex designs,  having the ability to create effective ERD’s and database modelling tools help facilitate communication, improves database documentation and reduces development time for projects. In the article, “Designing a Technology Enhanced Collaboration Space for Learning Entity-Relationship Modeling”,  several faculty of information technology at Monash University conducted research involving the development of digital learning environments to enhance the learning of constructing effective ERDs. The researchers implemented surveys and expert interviews to identify three main challenges that students face when learning to model an ERD: 1) Identifying key characteristics from the text based scenarios. 2) Translating the scenario into a logical data model. 3) Comprehending the structural design and understanding how it relates to database design. Surveys were 19 questions long and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. 15(49%) out of 31 students raised issues regarding designing and modeling while 9 students(28%) had issues with the learning approach. Interview responses regarding the overall issues ultimately came down to “Not having enough examples with too many rules to remember”. Questions of the interview found the most common problem of this issue to identifying and establishing relationships between entities. As quoted by one student, “Relationships between entities… sometimes a little ambiguous with many relations affecting one entity”. Of these students that found entity relationships to be difficult preferred to work on labs/tutorials while group learning is least important. However, researchers suggested that a major component to effective learning ERD is verifying the solutions through group collaboration. The verification step would need various points of views and alternative solutions. It is important to get a second opinion, which students have not been verifying their ERD. Hence, the University developed an online medium where students can collaborate with each other and exchange opinions in the process of identifying entities and relationships.

I chose this research article to talk about because we have been learning about Enhanced Entity Relationship Diagrams for the past week. I personally found the subject to be rather abstract due to all the rules that we had to remember. The number of entities types and attributes involved in the process brings to the table different interpretations and ways of organizing the diagram. I’m sure everyone in class can relate one way or another to the article such as myself and the other students from Monash University. As a first time database student and after reading this article, I can honestly say from experience that the more examples and entity types I’m exposed to, the better I will understand the relationships.

I really like the fact that professors at Monash University designed an online platform for students to better learn to collaborate with each other and better understand the subject. Although we don’t have such system at Cal Poly Pomona, I genuinely feel like the more hands on practice we do as a class, the better we will remember the rules of entity-relationship modeling.



Wong, Anthony. K.L, and Michael. Morgan, and Matthew. Butler. (2012). Designing a Technology Enhanced Collaboration Space for Learning Entity-Relationship Modeling. 12 PP 1-5.

4 thoughts on “Enhanced Collaborative Space for Learning Entity-Relationship Modeling

  • October 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I would agree. Group work with ERD’s is important. There are a whole ton of rules that we have to learn and it is definitely overwhelming in the beginning. But with class exercises and being able to work in partners helps a great deal. With most things, practice makes perfect.

  • October 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    It is true as I too have found learning about databases confusing. From what I can tell, It’s almost like an art form; as there are many different techniques and tools we can use to achieve the same output, but it is with experience that we will develop the ability to determine which is best. I personally am a hands on learner, so I feel once we get to actually work with the databases on our computers and see how the ERD’s are working together, then I will develop a stronger understanding. It’s good to see that researchers are looking into our leaning models.

  • October 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Entity-Relationship diagrams are most often used to model databases. And they are very useful for data modelling and the relationships/constraints between the data. ERD describe the stored data layout, and concentrate on the relationships between data stores on the Data Flow Diagram that can be seen only in the process specification.
    Nice post

  • October 17, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I agree with you that group collaborating and brainstorming can be beneficial in learning ERD and database design, hence for almost each chapter I have students work on in-class exercises in groups. Though CIS Dept requires individual projects for core course, you should be able to do more group projects in the upper level courses.

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