A Case Study on Using the Mendix Low Code
Platform to support a Project Management Course
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This paper discusses the experience of using the Mendix - a low code platform - to support the goals
and objectives of an undergraduate project management course in an information systems continuing
studies bachelor’s program. Model Driven Development (MDD) tools such as Mendix have evolved from
the Computer Assisted Systems Engineering (CASE) tools of the eighties and nineties to yield capabilities
that push these tools into mainstream development. These tools are designed to allow system
development at a higher level of abstraction and generate fully functional applications from a model
driven environment. The legacy CASE tools never reached the anticipated wide use because the
technology of the time was not able to fully support the hype. Those tools required intensive resources,
maintenance, support, training and knowledge to use, and rarely performed fully as advertised. As the
new tools continue to emerge into the mainstream, students and practitioners must develop
competencies in their use. This paper provides insight into using Mendix to support a project
management course, and discusses the successes and the challenges.
Keywords: Mendix, low code, project management, model driven development, CASE, Information
This paper reports on use of the Mendix low code
application development platform to support
learning objectives of a project management
course in an information systems bachelor’s
degree program. The use of this tool in support
of the course is a result of the emergence of
Model Driven Design tools such as Mendix in a
new wave of Computer Aided Software
Engineering (CASE) tools with expanded
From the advent of CASE tools about 1970, the
ability of these tools to easily and reliably
generate fully functional applications did not
emerge until decades later. CASE tools are
software tools used to design and generate
applications. This occurs at a higher level of
abstraction than application development using
linear programming methods (Halpern & Tarr,
The CASE tools of the 1980’s facilitated higher
levels of abstraction by automating and
simplifying application development using the
context of domain models, with the tool
generating development documentation, code,
and in some cases, fully functional applications.
While many professionals used case tools as aids
to the development process, very few of them
used the tools for full blown database application
generation engines. The cost and complexity of
implementing and maintaining the tools, training
and retaining their users, coupled with the tool’s
abilities and failure to perform as predicted led to
the tools having little commercial impact during
the 1980’s and 1990’s (Schmidt, 2006). Jones
(2002) notes that as much as 70 percent of CASE
tools were not being used by the end of the first
It is widely accepted that reasons for the first-
generation CASE tools not gaining widespread
acceptance include unrealistic performance
expectations and inadequate training. The
emergence of better tools for Model Driven
Development (MDD), evolving from first
generation CASE tools, have improved
performance to the extent that they are now
being used for large scale development projects.
Efforts are being made to address the training
issues. It is imperative for students about to
enter the workforce to have some exposure to
these new and innovative tools. Incorporating
the Mendix platform into this project
management course is an effort to provide
students with exposure to a development project
using an MDD tool, in addition to fostering
student understanding of working in teams.
2. The Population
The student population at the School of
Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS)
consists of mostly non-traditional students.
Although non-traditional defies definition,
demographic information gives perspective to the
typical student. The average student age is 37,
although information systems students tent to be
closer to 30. Although the majority of students
have traditionally been men, the number of
women in the program is slowly increasing, with
women accounting for more than half of
enrollments in the current semester. Experience
levels and goals of women students are similar to
those of the male students.
Eighty-one percent of students are part-time.
Both part-time and fulltime students are working
on either Bachelor of Science in Professional
Studies degrees with a major in Information
Technology Management or Information Security,
or a post-bachelor Certificate in Applied Studies
in Information Systems or Information Security.
Student experience varies, with some having
associate’s degrees or at least some community
college work, and have immediately transferred
to SPCS with a desire to complete their bachelor’s
degree. Others have been in the workforce for
some time, and need a degree for promotion.
Whereas others are trying to break into the
information systems field, often with significant
life experience and success in other fields.
The factors which make SPCS students unique
leads to a wide variance in student
understanding, experience and ability. All major
core courses are classroom courses, although
some are offered in hybrid format of in person
and online courses. There are currently no
completely online information systems courses,
although some non-major courses may be taken
online. Most of the students live in the local
metropolitan area, and with the majority of
students staying in the area after graduation.
Courses are generally capped at 15 students,
allowing significant individual attention and
interaction with instructors. The project
management course is a four credit hour course
meeting weekly in traditional format.
This demographically diverse student population
presents numerous opportunities as well as
challenges. Many of these are well known and
well documented elsewhere, such as the benefits
of experience and maturity, and the challenges of
family and work obligations. The applied aspects
of the course arguably add more value to this
student population – whereas the traditional
student students continue to mature and learn to
think critically during their degree programs, it is
expected that the continuing students in this
program focus more on professional
competencies, with the primary focus for
instructors to help students grow professionally.
To facilitate learning amongst this target
population, the high-level philosophy is to provide
an applied aspect for each course. The project
management course, offered for over a decade in
this program, has long included a course project.
It was hoped that by using the Mendix tool, the
students would add additional realism and
domain skills to student repertoires.
3. Model Driven Development
Model Driven Development (MDD) is a software
development methodology that uses model
architectures to raise the level of abstraction so
that complexity can be decreased, and
The use of CASE tools began in the early 1970’s.
In a 1976 article, Teichroew & Hershey discuss
how a tool was used to analyze, define and
document requirements and specifications for
information systems. During the 1980’s and
1990’s, first generation CASE tools were most
prolific, and reached their apogee. In the 1980’s
CASE tools were used to collect requirements,
and by the 1990’s the tools were generating
partial application code. However, these tools
never lived up to - perhaps exaggerated -
expectations, and never had the expected effect
on development paradigms (Yourdon, 2001;
Henkel & Stirna, 2010; Schmidt, 2006).
Evolving from the CASE tools of the eighties and
nineties, the current crop of MDD tools have
improved functionality to the extent that they can
reliably generate applications and are easier to
use and maintain than ever (Selic, 2003).
Henkel and Stirna (2010) provide a structure for
evaluating MDD tools. They list metrics for
desired functionality of the tools. Areas of desired
functionality include modeling support and
According to Henkel and Stirna, modeling support
consists of language(s) for modeling constructs in
the specific domain. This is supported by key
underlying areas of abstraction,
understandability, executability and model
refinement. Regarding development support, or
support for development processes, Henkel and
Stirna found the literature suggests six areas:
observability, turn-around-time, collaborative
development support, integration, developer
competence support and reusability.
When evaluating Mendix against these criteria,
Henkel and Stirna found Mendix suited to web-
based development of small to medium
complexity, for small projects with short delivery
times. These qualities were determined to make
Mendix a good fit for supporting this course.
The FFIEC IT Examination Handbook Infobase
(n.d.) proposes four areas of risk when
considering implementation of CASE tools,
including inadequate standardization, unrealistic
expectations, inability to implement quickly and
weak repository controls. Mendix was chosen
based on their ability to manage these risks.
The Mendix tool was used for the course due to
its functionality, simplicity and the support
offered by Mendix. The platform is the leading
low-code solution recognized by analyst reports
like Gardner and large enterprise companies such
as SAP and IBM. It is a full stack platform
designed to build applications rapidly. The
platform abstracts and automates the various
application development layers from front end to
back end. For example, the data structure is build
using unified modeling language (UML). The
business logic uses Business Process Modeling
Notation (BPMN) and the user interface is built
with widgets following a what you see is what you
get (WYSIWYG) model.
The platform allows for business and IT to
collaborate and build applications that add
business value. It handles 6 main functions:
• Data Structure and Domain Model
• Business Logic
• User Interface and Experience
• Security and user authentication
Collaboration is the key to building successful
applications that solve business problems. The
business understands the critical business
problems and needs digital solutions to fix those
problems. Whereas, the IT department needs to
support the business by providing the solutions
that work. Communication across these two
departments has always been challenging. In
order for both business and IT to collaborate,
speaking the same language is key and delivering
on time and under budget. In addition, it is
unreasonable for solutions to be delivered months
and years after the original business problem has
To deliver applications rapidly - in weeks vs
months – there needs to be a process change.
Agile methodology follows the iterative process
and business can have a minimal viable product
within weeks and can iterate as needed
(Frydenberg, Yates & Kukesh, 2017). The agile
methodology allows for iterative development
and for the business to provide input and shape
the product before it is delivered.
When students create a Mendix project, the
collaboration workspace is automatically created
with all the built-in agile process features. For
example, students can capture their user
requirements and add user stories and sprints.
They can create sprints that run for a fixed set of
time and manage the backlog of stories and work
to be done. In addition, using the feedback
widget, they can gather feedback from the
business or professor and implement additional
features and functionalities. The application they
build in the first sprint will be vastly different than
the application they deliver at the end of the
semester. Students can see the process and
workflow as they build the solutions out. The
project manages the code repository and code
check in and out process which allows for multiple
students to work on a diverse set of user stories.
Illustration 1. Agile process overview.
(Illustrations may be found in the appendix.)
The database structure is the foundation of the
business solution. It is where data is stored. In
the platform, students do not have to worry about
what kind of database to create and manage, they
don’t have to create SQL queries and other code
functions central to the architecture of an
The database structure in the platform follows the
Unified Modeling Language (UML) principles and
is composed of 3 main components: entities,
attributes, and associations. The entities are
translated into database tables. The attributes
are the table columns with a type and size. The
associations store the primary keys of the related
entities in the database automatically underneath
the hood. Associations are the relationships
between entities based on cardinality - one to
many, one to one, or many to many.
In the platform, the business logic is designed
using the principles of Business Process Modeling
Notation (BPMN). The business logic is the logic
layer in the application and students will build
microflows. You can use microflows to add logic
such as validations, calculations, integration
pieces and other activities. Microflows are visual
representations of all the logic and steps. The
main building blocks are start and end points,
activities, exclusive splits, loops and much more.
Illustration 2. Microflow example.
The example microflow shows the business logic
applied to classroom registrations. It checks if the
class is full before allowing a student to register.
User interface and user experience
The user interface and user experience are what
the end users of the application will see. It is
important to build an application that not only
looks good but the end users can navigate with
ease and fit their needs. The users shouldn’t have
to think on where to go and what to do. You want
user adoption and the application should be easy
to use and delight the users.
If the application has too many buttons and
shows too many data, the end user will be
exhausted and not know where to go. Thus,
applications need to delight end users and
provide an experience that flows and feels natural
to the end users. In the Mendix platform, the user
interface is designed with a what you see is what
you get (WYSIWYG).
Students can drag and drop user interface
components and arrange them as they see fit.
The can design and iterate over the pages as
needed based on feedback and end user
behavior. The platform follows 3 principles for
design: harmony, simplicity and flexibility.
Additional resources may be found on the Mendix
Illustration 3. UI/UX dashboard example image.
Students can build responsive pages that will
render on any device type from desktop to tablet
to mobile. In addition, they can build mobile
applications with fully native functionalities.
In today’s world, security and privacy are
paramount. Thus, an application has to have user
authentication and allow users enough
permissions based on their user roles.
As a developer, user roles are defined in the user
stories and implemented based on what the users
should be able to see and do. Most applications
have some form of user authentication and
limited permissions based on user roles. As a
developer, user roles are created from the user
stories. The developer can limit the access of
forms, microflows, and specify the create, read,
update, and delete (CRUD) permissions on the
entity level. Through clicks and easy to navigate
dashboards students can see the access rules and
give user roles permissions based on the user
stories and functionality.
In addition to building the application, Mendix is
partnered with cloud providers to handle the
infrastructure of deploying applications. The
students can build their applications and deploy
them into a free sandbox environment. They can
share their applications with anyone they want.
The course discussed in this paper is a three
credit undergraduate project management
course. It has been offered for over 10 years, and
has always had an applied component using a
group project. In the current iteration of the
course, the group project used Mendix instead of
the traditional group processes such as
brainstorming to develop a scope statement,
work breakdown structure, charter, etc.
Learning outcomes for the course included three
high level goals with supporting objectives.
These goals included:
Goal One: Examine and understand project
components and phases.
The goal helps students understand basic
concepts of project management from a holistic
Goal Two: Understand basic functions required
to create a project such as scoping, chartering,
work breakdown structure development, task
identification, scheduling, resource assignment,
status tracking, contracting, earned value
analysis, and risk management.
The goal helps students learn to develop a
notional IT Project Plan.
Goal Three: Understand Uses and Limitations of
Project Management Software Tools
The goal helps students understand how the triple
constraint affects project implementation and
control using software tools.
Mendix Goals and Objectives
In using Mendix for the course project, an
additional goal and supporting objectives were
Goal Four: Work in teams on an App
development project using a low-code platform.
The goal helps students learn how to work in
small teams, and to develop real world apps in a
• Students will develop a basic
understanding of Mendix
• Students will become certified in Mendix
• Students will use the Mendix platform to
develop an App
To achieve this goal and objectives, the following
activities were included in the syllabus:
• Completion of Mendix online rapid
developer training modules.
• Requirement that students attain rapid
• Classroom lectures and discussion on
• Group project with deployed app using
the Mendix platform.
There is a significant body of literature
discussing pedagogical delivery methods for
project related courses. A 2004 study (Lynch,
Goold & Blain) discusses student preferences on
how project courses are delivered. The authors
suggest that the delivery method affects the
amount of control instructors have over course
conduct, based on the pedagogy of the teaching
model. They discuss four models: industry
sponsored, studio, traditional and directed.
The industry sponsored model uses a scenario
where students play the role of junior enterprise
employees, with course tasks assigned
dependent on enterprise needs. In the studio
model, students collaborate with experts and
mentors to gain insight into best practices. In
the traditional model, students collaborate in
teams on projects, with a low level of interaction
with faculty. Finally, in the directed model,
students work with a technical and a managerial
faculty member, on a clearly defined set of
deliverables. In Lynch, Goold and Blain’s 2004
study of 196 students from three institutions,
studio, traditional and directed models were
examined. The most significant finding is that
students much prefer well-defined deliverables.
It was determined that for this course, the most
appropriate delivery method would be the
directed model, with tenets of the traditional
The first seven weeks of the course consisted of
introductory work on basic aspects of project
management. To prepare for the applied portion
of the course, Students were assigned two
modules a week of the online Mendix Rapid
Developer certification self-study course.
An immediate challenge was that of verifying
that students were keeping up with their
modules. The fear was that students would
procrastinate and not complete the modules
until the last minute, when certification was due.
The course policies on late work (one letter
grade a day, with a minimum of 50 percent for
any completed assignment) served to motivate
students to complete the assignments, but
validating completion proved to be a challenge.
It was decided to have students upload a
screenshot of their module completion screen to
a Blackboard assignment, but the solution was
never fully implemented due to time constraints.
It was discovered after course completion that
the Mendix tool provides a way for instructors to
check student work and ensure completion of
assignments. This functionality will be used
when the course is taught again.
As students began to complete their training
modules, the process of testing began. The first
student to take the exam was a hard charging,
highly motivated student. She already held a
bachelor’s and master’s degree in a technical
field, yet, surprisingly failed the examination.
She and other students opined that the test was
difficult to understand, with a poor translation
from the original language. This feedback was
passed to the Mendix team working on
certifications. The team was responsive to the
feedback, and they anticipate a new exam
release within months.
Fortunately, Mendix provided superb support in
resetting tests for students who failed on their
initial try. This was significant, as Mendix
provided the certification tests to students at no
cost, whereas a retake for a retail customer
would incur a significant test fee. Most students
passed the test on the first or second try, with
only one of the six students requiring three tries,
and only one student failing to become certified.
Achieving Mendix certification constituted 10
percent of the semester grade.
Following completion of the online training and
certification process, students began work on
their course projects. From the beginning of the
semester, participants were placed in groups of
three for the entirety of the semester. Early
placement of students in groups was deliberate,
in hopes that this would jumpstart Tuckman’s
(1965) model for development of small groups.
Tuckman proposed that all groups go through
stages of forming, storming, norming,
performing and adjourning. Introducing this
concept to students was a critical part of the
course, as these factors are critical to project
management. Students were therefore aware of
these processes, and were able to experience
group development as part of their course
At the start of the course, participants developed
a project charter and work breakdown structure
to kick off their projects. In addition to
providing insight on use of these deliverables
applied to real world projects, these exercises
helped students scope and frame their course
There were no prerequisites for the course,
although most participants had previously
completed systems analysis or database
courses. These courses helped with the Mendix
project. This an example of the kind of synergy
that program developers strive for – courses
informing other courses, with students having
opportunities to apply concepts learned in
previous courses in real world settings.
Students were required to provide intermediate
deliverables, or milestones. This was
accomplished by having an assignment (with
requirements listed) on Blackboard. When they
completed the requirements, students would
commit and save their changes in Mendix, then
notify the instructor that there were items
requiring grading via Blackboard.
After creating their Mendix projects and
familiarizing themselves with the development
environment, the first deliverable for students
was to develop their use cases, referred to in the
Mendix processes as user stories. This was
accomplished by having participants first
develop requirements for application
functionality. These requirements were
translated into use cases by operationalizing
them, and incorporated into an excel
spreadsheet as user stories. The spreadsheets
were then uploaded into the Mendix
development environment, although one group
chose to bypass the spreadsheet phase, and
type in the user stories directly into Mendix.
After all user stories were uploaded into Mendix,
the changes were committed and saved.
Students notified the instructor via Blackboard,
and the assignments were reviewed in Mendix.
Grades were entered using the rubric on
The next milestone involved developing a
domain model. As the course used a directive
pedagogy, the instructor chose the wedding
event planning application to be developed, and
suggested use of the event app template in
Mendix. This proved to be a mistake, because
the domain modeling used to construct the
template was found to be developed primarily to
make the template functional, rather than to
provide an example of a proper domain model.
Students were not able to reconcile this model
with their models developed for the project. To
preclude this outcome, future iterations of the
course will not use a template, and will require
students to use their own models in their
entirety. After completion of this step, students
again committed and saved their changes, the
instructor reviewed the work, and grading was
conducted through Blackboard rubric.
Other reviews included the interim deliverables
of interface design and business logic. These
reviews were reviewed and graded the same
manner as the previous, using Blackboard to
grade and reviewing in the Mendix environment.
The typical class agenda included a
lecture/discussion, in-class exercise and group
project time. During the week prior to the
project presentations, the class did not meet so
students could polish their apps and prepare for
The presentations were professionally delivered,
and were well structured and concise.
Presenters were obviously well versed in the
application and the development process, and
could provide nicely articulated lessons learned.
They all agreed that use of the Mendix platform
contributed positively to their learning
experience, and were unanimous in agreeing
that Mendix should continue to be used in future
Following presentations, the students discussed
lessons learned. Areas where they felt the
Mendix project contributed to their course
experience included definition of scope,
development of work breakdown structures, user
stories and database models, developing team
communications, and the shared experience of
team investment in the project.
Areas that students felt need improvement
included application errors, synchronization,
communications, and inability to roll back to a
historical version of their development model.
There is no question that Mendix added to
student repertoires of useful skills. Following
certification of the students, the instructor
received a communication from an out-of-state
company offering certified students paid
internships including housing. For those
graduating, or for certificate students, they were
offering job interviews.
As the course progressed, several areas where
the student experience could be improved were
noted. These areas include both pedagogical
and technical areas for improvement.
Mendix has a list of course objective areas
where the Mendix tool supports a systems
analysis course. It is suggested that a similar
list be developed for a project management
course. Ensuring that course goals and
objectives which can be supported by Mendix
would yield better course organization.
Students used an event template to start their
projects, with the intent of modifying it to meet
their requirements. This did not work as
intended. The architecture of the template was
designed to make the template functional, which
led to integration problems. For example,
student developed domain models were not
compatible with the domain model in the
template. This caused application errors, with
an administrative underlying database causing
consistency errors, and not allowing students to
update their applications. This problem could be
mitigated by using a blank project instead of a
Using the web modeler and free tier access
caused students not to be able to roll back to
previously saved versions of their work, which
caused them to have to reenter work numerous
times. Students who used the desktop modeler
did not experience these problems, so these
may be associated only with the web modeler.
Students also found that synchronization
between web modeler and desktop modeler was
not always fast or accurate. More investigation
into these occurrences must be made to
determine whether these issues are related to
student inexperience or application error. It is
possible that these problems might be avoided
by having students use only the desktop
Students used a variety of options for help with
their applications, including Mendix helpdesk,
dedicated support from Mendix academic
support department, online forums, and course
instructor with mixed results. This processes
will be standardized as Mendix continues to be
used by the program.
5. FUTURE RESEARCH
The Mendix tool is anticipated to be used in an
increasing number of SPCS courses in the future.
A dedicated course on Mendix development is
currently being offered during a six-week summer
session, as well as a systems analysis course
offered during the fall semester. Future research
opportunities include using a survey instrument
to determine how students feel about the Mendix
experience, qualitatively determining how well
Mendix supports a systems analysis course, and
conducting a meta-analysis to provide insight on
how Mendix supports projects.
In summary, the Mendix low code platform was
used to support a project management course.
The intent was to leverage Mendix to meet goals
of the legacy course, while adding some new
goals and objectives to give students additional
competencies using Mendix.
The Mendix project helped students meet course
goals and objectives by:
• Exposing them to the Mendix platform,
Course Goal 4
• Helping them obtain Mendix certification
which is an industry recognized
certification allowing students to
showcase industry experience and
• Demonstrating small group development
• Facilitating real world use of project
charter, work breakdown structure, etc.
• Supported Course Goals 1, 2 and 3
through participation in a real-world
• Introducing students to Agile
Areas for improvement:
• Attaining Mendix certification
• Application of Mendix to achieve real
world objectives in an applied setting
• Inability to reset crashes when using the
• Unwieldy processes for milestone reviews
• Inconsistency in finding help
• Mapping of course objectives to the tool
Students, instructor and administrators agree
that using Mendix in this course added value in
developing student knowledge, skills and abilities.
The experience added significant tools to student
repertoires, but was not without its challenges.
However, Mendix has been responsive to
problems, both real and perceived. There is no
question that the experience added tremendous
value, and it is anticipated that with appropriate
refinements, Mendix will again be used in
succeeding iterations of the course.
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Appendix A – Illustrations
Illustration 1. Agile process overview.
Illustration 2. Microflow example.
Illustration 3. UI/UX dashboard example image.