Information technology team projects in higher education: an international viewpoint

Lynch, K, Heinze, A and Scott, E 2007, 'Information technology team projects in higher education: an international viewpoint' , Journal of Information Technology Education, 6 , pp. 181-198.

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It is common to find final or near final year undergraduate Information Technology students undertaking a substantial development project; a project where the students have the opportunity to be fully involved in the analysis, design, and development of an information technology service or product. This involvement has been catalyzed and prepared for during their previous studies where the students have been told and shown how to develop similar systems. It is the belief that only through this ‘real’ project do they get the chance to experience something similar to what is expected of them when they embark on their chosen profession; that is, as an information technology professional. The high value of ‘near real life’ educational experience is recognized by many universities across the globe. The aim of this paper is to present examples from three countries - Australia, United Kingdom and South Africa, of the delivery of these team, capstone or industrial experience projects; their curricula and management processes. Academics from institutions in each of the countries share experiences, challenges and pitfalls encountered during the delivery of these information technology projects within their institutions. An overview of each institution’s strategies is provided and highlights specific issues such as the selection of projects, allocation of teams to projects, legal requirements, assessment methods, challenges and benefits. The pedagogies presented here are not exhaustive; however, the three institutions do have in common the implementation of a combination of constructivism with a community of practice approach in delivering the project unit. The three universities recognize the need for industrial experience and learning of applied skills, and therefore make these projects a compulsory part of the curriculum. The projects tend to be real life business problems which are solved over a period of two semesters, and in the case of Cape Town it could be two consecutive years of two semesters each. These projects tend to involve practical development (for example databases and web sites). The process of project-to-team allocation is generally similar in all cases. Despite their differences, team work related problems are quite similar in all three cases presented, and seem to appear as a result of team work complexity, and the number of stakeholders involved. The intention of this paper is not to propose solutions to these problems (as these would be context dependent), but to draw the attention to the main problem categories for similar schemes, these are; • project selection, • management of students, • management of academic staff, • student team motivation, • equality and diversity, • passengers, and • assessment. Furthermore, it is not the intention of the authors to portray one approach as better than another, however, the approaches are representative of how team projects are being delivered across the globe, and in particular, in the contributing institutions. It is hoped that the assimilation and dissemination of information regarding the various approaches presented will nurture further discussion, and open communication across the globe with the view to enhancing the teaching and learning experience of such projects.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects / Themes > Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA075 Electronic computers. Computer science
Subjects / Themes > L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School > Salford Business School Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Information Technology Education
Publisher: Informing Science Institute
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 15479714
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr Aleksej Heinze
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2009 11:42
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 08:08

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