ER or UML?

by Andrew H
For this weeks blog I read an academic journal by James Suleiman and Monica Garfield called, “Conceptual Data Modeling in the Introductory Database Course: Is it Time for UML?.” The article talks about what type of data modeling schools are using for their introductory database courses. The answer has proven to be E-R modeling even though the article states that UML could possibly be the better style. The authors say, that a lot of programs use Object-Oriented (OO) methodology which embraces UML, therefore UML would be a good approach to teach as most students are already accustomed to it after a few programming courses. They believe as a result that there should be further discussion and teachers should press for teaching the UML way that way everything is more uniform and students can get a more comprehensive understanding of the material.

I chose this article because over the past few weeks we have been talking about E-R modeling. I thought it was very interesting that somebody was evaluating what type of data modeling we are learning in our intro database classes. I do agree that we should learn UML modeling as well as E-R that way we are exposed to both types and we can choose as we work on different projects. After looking at both ways of modeling I think that the E-R model is easier to read however; I have been looking at E-R models for the last three weeks so I am accustomed to them and with time I’m sure UML would become much clearer.

I enjoyed reading this article because it explained a few of the differences between the different types of models and the fact that there has been discussion about changing what is taught. As said before I think it is important to learn both ways that way we can look at any data model and understand what is being shown.

Suleiman, J., & Monica, J. G. (2006). Conceptual data modeling in the introductory database course: Is it time for UML? Journal of Information Systems Education, 17(1), 93-99.

4 thoughts on “ER or UML?

  • October 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm
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    As I have been hunting for articles the past few days, I found quite a bit are comparing ER Modeling to something else. My article talked about NoSQL verses MySQL. I think that depending on what the business/program needs, the appropriate data model should be integrated. It is all about what is best. Some businesses are only familiar with SQL and need to use that. Others can use the newer data models. Personally, I am finding database much easier than Java!

  • October 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm
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    I agree with you that we should learn both ER and UML but not focus on either one. I found both of them some what similar. However, ER is focusing more in database design whereas UML is use in programming (at least in my case, I learned a little bit of UML in CIS 234 and now ER in CIS 305). Just like Katheryn said depending on the business/program we will use different model.

  • October 14, 2012 at 7:18 pm
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    I think UML should be taught in schools, but not as a requirement. As with programming, we are required to learn about object-orientation so learning about UML makes logical sense. However, before we learned about OOP, most students probably did some procedural programming. So, I think it should be a similar progression with databases. First learn about relational databases, then move on to object-oriented databases.

  • October 14, 2012 at 7:32 pm
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    After reading your article, I think it’ll be a great idea to offer a UML course as well as a ER course. Students can decide to take one or both of them and by offering both courses it’ll give students a chance to be well diverse in database/programming.

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