2.1 Start with a wider perspective

As with the design of any course, one should always consider what purpose, aims and intended outcomes the project course should be designed for. Aspects such as students’ possible future project work and the variety of useful team-work skills in their professional working life should be analysed. There have been major surveys carried out regarding this matter in engineering education; see for instance the CDIO Syllabus v 2.0 (9).

The course you are designing might be one of the building blocks in a complete study programme, where collaboration with teachers over the study years is a crucial part. By doing so, the design of project courses and other types of study courses over the study years can be linked to each other, creating a progression of important knowledge, skills and competencies, and offer a variation on what is practiced and assessed.

An example of progression in Product Realisation: The progression of project work skills in the Degree Programme in Design and Product Realisation has been carefully designed. It’s important that the students have practiced the complete cycle of product realisation in their first project course, in year one. Some parts of the process can be a bit messy, and the key is to keep the project tasks in the first year quite simple or easy to relate to. Designing a home for compact living is an example of project tasks chosen. Also, guidance and feedback from teachers should be frequent.

With knowledge and experience of all steps in the process of product realisation, the students are more prepared in the following project courses to deal with more complex industrial design tasks. Knowledge from Solid Mechanics, Mathematics, Mechanics, Electrical Engineering and Component coursesmust be applied. The tasks are much more user-centred, with an actual client wanting a solution, which demands real solutions and delivery on time. Also, since the solution should be presented to the clients by the students, abilities to make judgments and communicate clearly are practiced and assessed. Two intended learning outcomes are: a) ‘Students should be able to describe and justify solutions and design for a certain target group’ and b) ‘Students should be able to, in sketch and model, visualise and present ideas and products’.Time management and information retrieval are other important skills that are more emphasized over the years. The students are expected to be more independent while the role of the teacher becomes less prominent.

An example of progression in project working skills: In the Degree Programme in Electrical Engineering, the progression of the students’ project working skills over the study years also has the overarching aim of giving the students experience within the complete process early on, and helping them see the importance of taking careful consideration of all steps in the process. The skill of creating and maintaining a well-functioning project plan is emphasised in year one, by close guidance and conversations with the teachers. A student manual called Handbook for smaller projects (10) has been written by the teachers in order to ensure that the project processes are carried out well.

The demands on the students’ project plans increase over the study years, and in year three project outcomes that can be evaluated must be defined. Here, the students are working with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) method (11). As with the example from Design and Product Realisation, the complexity level of the project tasks increases over the students’ study years. In the larger project work in year three (15 ECTS), the tasks are formulated by the Master’s Programs in Electrical Engineering. For instance, in one of the course rounds, the main theme was Communication Systems for Rescue Service, where one project could be to design ad hoc networks for the positioning of fire men in a building.

The demands on the students’ presentations of their work also increase over the study years, where public conferences and scientific papers are used in year three as assessment tasks in the larger project course. The size of the student groups decreases from five in year one, to four in year two and two students per group in year three.

Suggestion: If the course you are designing is part of a degree program, it is necessary to make sure the different courses are linked to each other, that a progression of important knowledge, skills and competencies is created, and that a variation on what is practiced and assessed is offered.

Administrator Oskar Bergman created page 10 July 2014

Administrator Oskar Bergman changed the permissions 10 July 2014

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Administrator Marie Magnell changed the permissions 27 January 2015

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