Students' Pedagogical Preferences in the Delivery of IT Capstone Courses

By Lynch, Kathy; Goold, Annegret et al. | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2004 | Go to article overview

Students' Pedagogical Preferences in the Delivery of IT Capstone Courses


Lynch, Kathy, Goold, Annegret, Blain, Jenny, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Introduction

Final-year industry projects are the capstones of many academic information technology programs across the globe. These projects give students the opportunity to develop, refine, and evaluate their technical knowledge and skills in work-like situation, and work in teams in preparation for their future professional employment. The experience of students undertaking a work-like course is not new. Educationalist Franklin Bobbitt (1971) argues that education is "coming to realize the need of work-activities as the only possible normal method of preparing for the work of the world" (Bobbitt, 1971, p. 20).

Within the information technology (IT) domain, capstone projects prepare students for the workforce by solidifying discipline skills and knowledge, team skills and collaborative experiences in

a controlled environment. The level of control is related to the underpinning pedagogy of the teaching model used to deliver the course. There are numerous models of delivering capstone courses, each having their own deliverables, timelines, duration, control, emphasis, and resource allocation. In

addition, the programmes under which these capstone projects operate have different entry requirements, underpinning philosophy, expectations and professional recognition.

No matter the origin of the academic program, the capstone course places a high level of demand and professionalism on the student, and is pedagogically different from the standard courses within their program.

This paper reports on a study that explored the impact of the pedagogical model on a variety of aspects common to capstone courses. Participants in the study were enrolled in an information technology capstone course in one of three tertiary institutions. Each of the institutions followed a different pedagogical approach in the delivery of their capstone course.

The paper is organized in the following manner. The first section presents a background into the educational underpinnings through an outline of what is meant by capstone course or project, a brief outline of four of the pedagogical models used to deliver capstone courses and an overview of experiential learning and team work as common strategies in the delivery of capstone courses. The second section describes the study conducted in three institutions that deliver capstone courses to their final-year information technology students. The third section presents the results of the study and a discussion of the findings. The final section contains several recommendations for developers of capstone courses together with ideas for further research in the field.

Background

Engaging students in work-like experiences, through simulated and authentic learning environments are commonplace in educational settings of today. The crux of this model of learning is not new, it is evident as far back in the teachings of Confucius in 450BC; "Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand". Educators have developed modern terms that have the same inference - that is, students will learn and understand if they have the opportunity to experience it. Learning-by-doing, reflection, experiential learning and collaboration are all part of the educational curricula today.

Employees in the IT workforce of the twenty-first century are required to work extensively in collaborative environments (Townsend, DeMarie & Hendrickson, 1998). Educational institutions are expected to prepare their students to work effectively in this workforce and graduating students not only need to be academically capable but they also need to be able to work effectively as part of a collaborative team. One way of doing this is through exposure to project work (capstone courses). These learning opportunities simulate a project's life in a real-world context, giving the student an opportunity to, as Confucius stated, 'understand'. …

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