Except for cognitive and technical skills, a number of professional competencies are needed to be able who work in a global job market. Some examples of such professional competencies are communication skills, creative thinking, reflection skills and intercultural competence. More work is needed, though, on understanding and spread how such professional competencies can be developed in project courses. The overarching goal of our development project was therefore to develop a framework for scaffolding the development of professional competencies..
The framework is based on working with open problems in project courses where students are given the freedom to define and drive the work themselves, and highlight aspects like progression and measurability, as well as support, including support from other students, in skills development. This by giving examples of different forms of support for students in their learning, but also for teachers to design learning environments suitable for the development of competencies. The idea is that the framework will be able to function in a variety of ways and in different roles and aims at an increased understanding of how active student participation can contribute to better learning environments for students.
The project is based on previous work with a project course, IT in society. In this work, a guiding principle has been that it is essential for the motivation that the development of competencies exists in a context relevant to the students, in this particular case, an international collaboration on IT use in a complex reality-based project in health care. However, the skills as such are often of a general nature and lessons learned from this context are useful for the development of competencies also in other contexts. The focus of this project is the use of learning agreements with reflections and student feedback. In the work we have developed a number of personas for different types of students and a prototype of a Wikipedia-like platform to collect resources intended for student development of professional skills. These resources are developed for the course IT in society, but are useful as inspiration for university teachers and trainers regarding methods of working with skills development through active student participation in project courses.
In addition to inspiring, we also want to consciously raise the resistance we noted to take the development of these skills seriously. The latter is related to the work of Anne Peters as a PhD student in UpCERG (Uppsala Computing Education Research Group). exemplified in her dissertation (Peters, 2017). In this report we first give a brief presentation of the main work carried out in the project, followed by a presentation of the results the work generated. The report ends with an attachment with publications, and a discussion and summary including future work.
Software engineering is about creating IT systems that work well in their context of use. It is however, a well-known fact that the art of designing software is a wicked problem and that the work in the software engineering projects often is complex and multifaceted. Studies have shown that 50-70% of all systems development projects fail! Understanding the problem as such is very much a part of the problem solving, as for example Schön argues in his book about the Reflective Practitioner.
Even though this is the reality that students face when they start working, there is very little in the educational setting that supports them in handling this future situation with complex problems. We have therefore in our course developed the idea of exposing the students to a real problem, one that has no obvious solution and preferably encompassed aspects from many different areas. In short, an open-ended problem. The name of the course is “IT in Society”
The course setting that we developed includes students working in groups and where the problem they address is clearly impossible for one individual to deal with alone. Our involvement as educators is limited to being facilitators and coaches, and being there for discussions about the students’ progress, with an emphasis on scaffolding the quality of how they worked rather than focusing on how good the solution to the problem will be.
Another feature is that we accept that students assume different roles in the projects as long as there was a real collaboration in a group, and that we work to build a good community of practice in the project through the reflections and discussions that we have with the students. We have named this new arena for learning Open-Ended Group Projects (OEGP). For further reading on how the theories of learning are applied in OEGP see the journal paper “On valuing peers: theories of learning and intercultural competence”.
Vitalis is an important venue for innovators, business and reseracher in eHealth, and brings together 4,500 participants. Next Vitalis takes place 24-26 April 2018 in Gothenburg, and last week the students from the IT in Society class submitted a proposal for a presentation at the conference.
The students will present their research on how health care can improve and become more efficient using tracking technology. I would suspect that it is not as easy as tracking in the snow, as in this blog post’s photo, however.
The students are doing extensive research on the topic this semester, with interviews field studies and literature reviews and studies to industries who have used tracking systems in their organizations to become more efficient.
The students will present their work around Christmas for Region Uppsala, and let’s hope that they are accepted to the conference so that knowledge and insights from their great work has a chance to spread!
Communication and PR are an important part of innovation and change. People use social media and Wikipedia to understand reality to a large extent. Through these channels we create the truths. (Or alternative truths :-o). Hopefully in parallel with other more traditional media channels. Even though communication and PR are very important for success, there are very few courses in the IT related programs at the university level that deal with this.
The students in the IT in society class has always marketed their work with an invitation to their presentation the final week, but this year we have put a more explicit focus on communication and marketing of their work.
They have one group of students who will work with communication and PR. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do! It will also be interesting to see what effects this will have on how known the course is, and how well they manage to communicate the results to media, other students, county councils etc.
We know that the students will submit an abstract to Vitalis and if they are accepted a few of them will go there and present in April. Last year the students did a fabulous job presenting at Vitalis 🙂