Graduates of Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Information Technology say it’s the thing that gives them jobs: more than a third of their final year of study is project based.
“In a job interview, candidates can talk about a real problem they’ve worked through,” says Professor Samuel Mann.
In recent years, capstone projects in the degree programme have been as diverse as a GPS-based virtual walking tour of central Dunedin historical landmarks to Pestweb, a system that gives farmers interactive information about pests. Now, wanting to transfer the benefits of project-based learning to all students, Mann and Programme Manager Hamish Smith researched how to translate the capstone approach to a lower-level course.
“We didn’t find much at an introductory level. So we looked at what is different and what works at a certificate level.” Smith says. The Certificate involves 12 ½ weeks of four different classes, with conventional teaching methods, followed by four weeks working on a project event full-time. Given a brief, students in groups of two or three follow differing pathways through the task.
The experiences of ICT students at Otago Polytechnic suggest project events in computing at certificate level are a successful innovation.
Smith, H. and Mann, S. (2011) Students' Experiences of Project Based Learning within a Pre-Degree Programme. Journal of Applied Computing and Information Technology, Volume 15, Issue 2.