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ERIC Number: EJ807686
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 26
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 37
ISSN: ISSN-1547-9714
A Scalable and Portable Structure for Conducting Successful Year-Long Undergraduate Software Team Projects
Keogh, Kathleen; Sterling, Leon; Venables, Anne
Journal of Information Technology Education, v6 p515-540 2007
Year-long team projects with external clients provide a well recognized opportunity for students to gain industry experience, whilst being supported and guided by staff to minimize risks. Each group should be supervised to ensure that they have enough direction and confidence to approach a new problem of significant size, without being daunted. A structure is needed that is flexible and adaptable to suit various institutional cultures but, at the same time, provides the safety net to ensure that success is likely. This paper presents a reflective analysis of teaching at three different institutions and presents the resulting distilled wisdom of experience that has produced a structured framework for capstone project units. The proposed structure is scalable to any class size and portable across institutions and potentially across technical disciplines. The structure leads to team student projects that are successfully engaging and provide excellent experience toward producing work-ready graduates. The structure is flexible in design so that the teaching workload does not increase too much as class sizes increase, but students are still well supported with appropriate scaffolding and mentoring. We detail the key factors in our framework: careful project selection, appropriate sign posts, and helpful guides that together improve upon overall project success. We argue that students need appropriate projects, "good" clients, and a well formed team. The sign posts support students through the "uncharted waters" of ill-defined problem-based learning. Sign posts include: deliverables, deadlines, team notebook, progress reports, and accountable time-tracking. Helpful guides spread the teaching workload broadly: relying on cultural expectations, technology, team supervisor, feedback, and clear marking guidelines. This structure has been successfully implemented in at least three different universities in Australia and several remote partner teaching sites in different countries over many years. We have provided case study examples of implementations in three different Australian Universities: a large urban university (The University of Melbourne), a small urban university (Victoria University) and a regional university (The University of Ballarat). Students benefit from such an experience in their final stages of an undergraduate computing degree. The scaffolding and support provided by the structure enables students to improve their skills in technical development, communication, team work, project management and client negotiation. The project unit provides opportunities for independent self directed learning and realistic experiences in an environment that allows for experiential learning. Students are engaged when working with real problems for real industry clients. Our student feedback supports our view that students' confidence in their ability to manage a project is enhanced through their project experience. Based on our own observations and anecdotal feedback, we believe that our students benefit and are helped to become "industry ready" graduates through the learning experienced in the capstone project course. This same structure could be used successfully in similar programs. We would encourage others to consider adapting this framework to their institutional context, as we have collectively found it a positive model to help us manage the considerable workload in offering successful year long undergraduate software projects with clients. (Contains 2 tables.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia