ENHANCING STUDENTS’ MOTIVATION AND ACADEMIC RESULTS IN THE CONTEXT OF FINAL PROJECTS THROUGH DESIGN-THINKING METHODOLOGIES
With the introduction of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) all students in master and bachelor’s degrees must develop, before finishing the academic program, a Final Project. In engineering degrees this final project inherits from the traditional Engineering Final Projects; although considering the new context and the required academic effort they are totally different tasks (especially in terms of innovation and scope).
As time goes, these new Final Projects have turned each time more academic and got further from the job market and companies’ needs. Thus, recent surveys show an incredible decrease in the students’ motivation in relation to final projects, as well as some topics are totally over demanded (those that sounds more like currently required professional skills such as Big Data or Blockchain). Besides, the number of students developing Final Projects has gone up incredibly and tutorial time has now to be divided into a much greater group of people, decreasing the tutorial quality.
To address these problems, we propose a Design-Thinking methodology for developing Final Projects. This methodology groups students in sets between three and six people. These groups should face a technological challenge, including a real design, development or innovation. These challenges are known for professor which take ideas from their professional lives.
In particular, during the second term of the year 2017/18 in the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, a pilot experience has been conducted, based on the introduction of this new methodology to develop Final Projects. The experience was developed in the context of Telecommunication engineering degree. Specifically, Final Projects were reorganized to enforce students to work as in industrial companies: they should work as a team, but each one is responsible for a different area (where the student will develop the Final Project). Students from all specialties were considered, although software engineers were the most important group.
During this experience, participating students (around 20% of the total students) should develop different prototypes, solutions, evaluation mechanisms and validation methodologies to ensure the correctness of the proposed technologies. Students will also employ professional tools for teamwork such as Slack or Trello. Challenges were selected within most popular areas nowadays such as Internet-of-Thing or Big Data.
Results showed a double effect. First, as students were divided into small groups, the quality of the tutorial action was highly improved. Professors were able to organize much more interesting face-to-face sessions and take advantage of time in a more efficient manner. Besides, as students were encouraged to increase the scope of their Final Projects as much as they desire, and professional skills were acquired, their global motivation level was also reported to be higher.