Capstone Computing Courses
In project-oriented university computing courses like ours, student teams develop real-world computer information systems for actual customers.
By working on real-world systems with actual customers the students learn the appropriate skills
– both technical and soft skills – for filling meaningful roles in the professional information technology workplace.
A project team is a group of individuals having the responsibility to jointly accomplish an objective and in this course the objective is to successfully complete a project.
Research has shown that work in teams enhances learning, and creating an "active learning process."
Student teams have been found particularly effective when the students actually need each other to complete the project.
It is also the norm for employees to work in teams, and teams are used in all kinds of organizations, such as in industry, education, and government.
Your project task is to write an 8-10 page paper that reviews the related literature on university capstone courses (senior undergraduate and graduate) that undertake real-world computing projects.
This paper will be the project's technical paper and will be submitted to the Seidenberg Research Day Conference held in May.
You should begin by reviewing the literature (books, journals, etc.).
Then search university websites to see how capstone computing project courses are designed and managed.
Focus on various aspects of project design, material, and management issues:
Include tables in your paper. For example, you could include a table of how project teams are formed at various universities:
instructor chooses students randomly; instructor chooses students based on student abilities and other information;
students choose team members; and hybrid approach in which the students provide project choices and the instructor forms project teams based on student choices, abilities, and other information.
Then the various methods of forming teams could be discussed -- pros and cons, etc.
- What are the management and other issues, such as subgroup dynamics, with globally dispersed team members? Differentiate between “dispersed” and “distributed” teams.
- Do the teams or the customer, or both together, determine the work schedule of team deliverables?
- Are the projects one-semester or two-semester projects?
- What is the nature the projects? For example, are they primarily programming, database, web design, etc.?
- How are projects and project customers determined?
- How are the projects sized and structured?
- What initial project information is presented to the students and how is it presented?
- How are project teams formed and teams assigned to projects?
- What project development environment is provided (software packages, servers, communication)?
- How is the project development process managed? Are there team leaders and, if so, what role do they play? What is the role of the course instructor in the management of the work?
- What are the project deliverables and how do they vary among the university capstone courses?
- How are the teams and individuals within teams evaluated and grades determined? Are peer evaluations used and, if so, how are they designed and administered?
- How are problems/disputes among team members handled? These issues could be work related (how to do the job) or non-work related (such as personality conflicts).
- What are the problems and how are they handled when students are distributed around the country or even in different countries, such as for online courses. (Industry clearly manages software development in globally distributed teams.)
- What are the pros and cons of conducting real-world projects in university courses?
- To pique the interest of students in "teamwork dexterity," our Pace University capstone course compares project teamwork with group activities on TV reality game shows such as Survivor and The Apprentice. Are we unique or do other university capstone courses do this? Can you improve on our presentation of this comparison?
Reality Television Comparison
“Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events,
and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded” (Wikipedia).
A sub-genre of these shows follows the format of elimination contests, such as the shows Survivor and The Apprentice.
The organization and assessment of the participants on these shows differs from that of students on capstone project teams.
For example, in our project work students don’t get eliminated from the course, as participants can be eliminated from the game shows –
like “voted out” on Survivor or “you’re fired” on The Apprentice.
Nevertheless, there are some similarities in the structure of these game shows and our projects.
Most notably, we have project teams that are similar to groups on the game shows (tribes on Survivor and teams on The Apprentice) that work together toward common goals.
You might include a section in the paper that compares the characteristics of the television reality game shows and the capstone projects.
You could begin by reviewing the material available on the reality game shows and the capstone projects.
If possible, make your comparison as straightforward as possible.
For example, you might include a table of the relevant characteristics (teams/groups, teams work toward common goal, team members evaluate each other, participants can be eliminated,
devious behavior on the part of participants toward other participants accepted, etc.)
and indicate whether they are present or not in the capstone projects and reality game shows.
Be sure to cover the ways participants are evaluated (assessed).
And you are not limited to the Survivor and The Apprentice game shows if you feel others are more comparable.
Related Previous Work
In past semesters, a short (roughly ten-day) early-semester assignment for all teams has been related to this subject, see
Assignment on Projects and
Assignment on Game Shows.
Your instructor will make available many of the team submissions on these assignments.
Suggestions for Improving Seidenberg's Capstone Course
Finally, you might include a brief section near the end of the paper that suggests way of improving the current Seidenberg capstone projects course.