A programme redesign is giving our Information Technology students more practical experience. 

Our final year Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) students do a full year capstone project, which used to follow a one semester course on software engineering at the end of the second year of the degree. Lecturers Elise Allen and Martin Junek realised they just didn't have enough weeks in the semester for students to gain the range of software engineering skills they needed for the capstone project. How might they start earlier, to better prepare students for this project? In 2019/20 Elise and Martin with Joy Gasson, Vaughn Malkin and Paul Admiraal redesigned the degree programme as part of the five-year review process. The result is a semester by semester programme that provides students with a coordinated progression of technical and soft skills over all three years of the degree. 

The new "studio" courses combine short taught modules and team-based projects. Developing the projects stage by stage enables students to apply the theory, building on what they have learnt in the previous stage. In their first semester of first year the students build a console based adventure game for themselves. Then in second semester they build a simple mobile-based web app from scratch, with a user-centric focus. In their third semester (first half of second year of the degree) they apply Scrum to streamline their Agile practices. Then in fourth semester they learn to make their application robust and reliable, not just a prototype. The goal has been to provide the students with learning opportunities that are as close as possible to industry experience without putting a burden on industry partners. 

Students starting their degree in mid 2020 are the first coming through the redesigned programme. The studio courses are getting improved attendance, buy-in and engagement from students. Because they are now assessed by demonstrating all required capabilities, students can no longer scrape through gaining just enough marks to pass. One of the lecturers in programming has also noticed significant improvement in students' trouble-shooting skills. It is hoped that this cohort will be better prepared for their capstone projects from mid 2022.

September 2021

Image credit: Breyten Ernsting, sourced from Flickr, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence CC BY 2.0