Addressing Integrated Learning through Project-Based Courses - Five Years of Improvements

Addressing Integrated Learning through Project-Based Courses - Five Years of Improvements

Daniel Einarson and Diana Saplacan

Project-based training is especially pointed out by the concept of CDIO, where value of project result is dependent, not only on the fulfilment of the project itself, but also on personal and interpersonal skills. The compound value of students’ performance is therefore an integration of abilities regarding all four sections of the CDIO Syllabus. That is, a project-based course is in itself a fundament for CDIO Standard 7, Integrated Learning Experiences. Furthermore, project-based courses are also examples on active learning forms (CDIO Standard 8), where learning activities concern all the four sections of CDIO Syllabus. That is, active learning has positive effect on achieving integrated learning skills.

Still, experiences show that problems of project-based courses, is that of actually activating students. On one hand, the work process, may be seen as unclear, which has negative impact on time to finish the project, and on learning quality. On the other hand, some groups of students may rely on more active students to finish their work. The conclusion is therefore that, lower grade of activity lies in conflict with the ambition of achieving integrated learning skills.

The project-based course Software Engineering 2 (SE2), at department of Computer Science, Kristianstad University, Sweden, has undergone several changes since 2011, as it started in the current shape. The students shall solve one main task (selected by teachers), where the level of scale and complexity of that task requires groups of about 15 students. The group is then divided up into sub-groups of about 3 students, where sub-groups solves parts of the main task that eventually are integrated to fulfill the project. Teachers have here observed the above mentioned problems, and improvements to the course have been done to further develop students’ activities as well as the integrated learning skills of those.

This contribution illuminates on how SE2 has undergone several steps of progressions, to meet and overcome the mentioned problems, with observed positive results. In short: At year 1 (2011) it was observed that students did not understand how to approach the work. To meet this the, so called, Capability Maturity Model as a guidance of working was introduced. At year 2, it was observed that groups of students did not contribute enough, which led to the introduction of the Code of Ethics for software engineers. At year 3, it was still observed that some students were not contributing enough, which led to introduction of anonymous student evaluations. At year 4, the traditional lectures were replaced by student active seminars. Finally, at year 5, the seminars format was changed to activate students even further. Moreover, the anonymous evaluations were refined. Thereafter an additional step of repetitive evaluations of generic skills has been introduced, to push the ambition on integrated learning skills at an even higher level.

The aim of this contribution is to give a complete view on progressions made, and to serve as a possible guidance in circumstances of implementing courses such as SE2.

Proceedings of the 13th International CDIO Conference in Calgary, Canada, June 18-22 2017

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