H. Woellik

Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (AUSTRIA)
Improving the student independences in thinking and working is a main goal of practical seminars and project tutorials. One basic requirement is to offer a challenging task which matches the student preconditions and gives the opportunity to work alone or in a small group. The organization of such a project tutorial or a practical seminar for students during the bachelor or master study is a complex and very time intensive task. Many general conditions must be taken into account, many persons must be involved during the planning phase, the processing phase and during the evaluation phase. And finally, the project lecture is embedded into the normal lecture schedule during each half year courses.
Basically, there are three main groups which have to be coordinated internal and in external relationship. First, the number of students which must pass the related exams. The students can either work alone or in groups up to three persons. This implies the organizing of two or three subtasks each. The second group contains the lecturer, which must be the experts and advise the students into the topic and assist as a first level helpdesk support. The preconditions here are the number of available lecturer and the number of student groups, for which the lecturer can be assigned. The third group involves to the project topics, which must be chosen according to different student academic level.
Additionally, the required resources like particular hard- or software have also to be taken into account, so the workplace in some laboratories or special rights to directories or more table space of databases.
All groups must be handled with care. To avoid subjective decisions or acting with personal influences, the main decision tasks should be done by a small group of project experts. To achieve a transparent communication method the reasons of the main decisions (mostly which task has to be done by which student group assisted by which lecturer) have to be reported and must be put out to the students and lecturer community.
The goal of this paper is to present a possibility how the organization of such practical seminars and project tutorials can be assisted by an approach of process management methods. In contrast to a lecture schedule planning method it is not the time as the main variable but the project task combination. There are a number of software tools for similar planning methods available, they can be used for making some common tasks semi-autonomous. Most of the tasks during the planning and organizing phase can be performed by a single person with a distinct sense of communication problems, good technical skills and experiences in time management. But the final decisions must always be performed by a small group of persons with good experiences in project management.