Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 2384-2393
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
At the end of their technical studies, students have to present a final project in order to finish their degree. With this project, students prove that they have got all of the competences they should have acquired. Many students are able to develop very good engineering projects, where they show their technical abilities and a dominion of the technical competences acquired during their studies. However, a degree project is not only focused on technical competences, but also on transversal ones, such as the ability to write and present effectively. These transversal competencies are usually evaluated during the face-to-face dissertation defense of students, but how to translate this evaluation scenario to a virtual environment?

This paper faces the problem of presenting dissertations in a virtual environment, in a way that allow evaluating transversal competences. The solution proposed consists in that students make a video presentation, upload it to a public web within the context of the classroom, and answer questions from both the evaluators and their partners, also within this webspace. To be successful, the problem is faced from three dimensions: teaching, understood as giving instructions on how to acquire those competences; learning, understood as how students manage to acquire those competences; and technical, understood as offering students the software they need. Thus, some learning resources are given to students explaining how to make effective presentations (teaching dimension); and a tool has been developed, named Present@, that allow students to upload their videos and develop, in the same place, the virtual debate (technical dimension). The paper also presents some results about the application of this solution over 100 dissertation defenses in the Computer Engineering grades offered by a virtual university during the last three years.

From the analysis of the results it can be concluded that: 1) Students actually face the objective competences, since in the open questions they highlight aspects like making oral and visual presentations, sharing them, and the stress of answering to partners and members of the tribunal; 2) time dimension should be taken into account, since students complain about the time they have to invest to make the presentations; but also complain about the little time they have to enjoy the virtual debate; and 3) students evaluate positively the changes introduced in the project dissertation. From all these items we conclude that the changes introduced in the final degree project actually help students to acquire the competences related with final project dissertation in virtual environments. Nevertheless, some improvements should be made, mainly in the technical and teaching dimension.

In this work it is shown a solution to the problems that virtual universities have to face when dealing with final project dissertations. It is especially difficult to face competences regarding speaking in public or making oral and visual presentations. Present@ has revealed itself as a very useful and powerful tool to communicate and we are starting to use it as a video repository of tutorials where teachers make short explanations and students can ask and comment them.

The paper also shows how to solve the problems the students have to face regarding the tool, that will be deeply rebuild following the results shown in this study.

"This research has been developed thanks to the project 2010MQD00015 from the Secretaria d'Universitats i Recerca of the Departament d'Economia i Coneixement of Generalitat de Catalunya".
Virtual Learning Environment, Dissertation Defense, Presenta, Presentation.