Joint-Module Project: An Integrated Approach to Deepen Applied Learning
conference contributionposted on 2022-03-25, 08:58 authored by Peter Paul WaszeckiPeter Paul Waszecki, Yiyang PeiYiyang Pei
Traditionally, degree programmes are separated into distinct modules which are delivered with little emphasis on their interconnection. While this is an efficient way to cover a broad range of topics within a domain, students may not recognise the thematic dependencies between modules or be able to integrate them into real-life applications. Such a fragmented approach may hinder learning and its subsequent transfer (NRC, 2000) . A more integrated approach is necessary. We have implemented a Joint Module Project (JMP) for Year 2 Computer Engineering students by integrating the contents of two thematically related modules “Sensors and Control” and “Embedded System Design”. By practically applying the knowledge from both modules simultaneously, students develop a deeper understanding of the interconnections between topics that are otherwise thought separately. Moreover, the JMP enables a more efficient workload management compared to projects that are individually offered, since students do not have to switch project topics, change their group allocation or working locations. This became even more relevant during the restrictions caused by the Covid19 pandemic.
Within the JMP, students in groups of 4 to 5, propose and develop a sensor-based embedded system application with the objective of demonstrating creativity, innovation skills and understanding of the concepts taught in the corresponding modules. A project manual outlining specific requirements guides the students in their choice of development techniques, hardware and other principles covered in lectures. The JMP deliverables are used to assess students’ technical understanding of the two modules and its transfer to address an industry-relevant problem. They consist of (1) a system prototype that includes both the hardware and software implementation, (2) a demonstration and a video explaining the functionality of prototype, and (3) a technical report that describes the problem, design, implementation and testing of the proposed solution. The learning outcomes and assessment components are defined jointly by the respective module leads and emphasise the integrated concept of the JMP. This means, that besides the necessary technical skills, those outcomes include the exposure to, handling and appreciation of the specific challenges of working in a team on a project that integrates components from multiple modules.
The JMP has been offered to four batches of students since 2017. Among the more than 40 projects thus far, some excellent prototypes addressing a variety of real-world problems have been developed, e.g., an Automated Car Parking System (2020), a Smart Medicine Dispenser (2019), and a Biometric Vehicle Operation Safety (2018). We have surveyed 42 students asking them, to indicate on a scale from 5 (strongly agree) to 1 (strongly disagree) if the JMP enhanced their learning (average result: 4.19), if the JMP is effective (4.12), and if the workload was manageable (3.98). Written comments show predominantly positive feedback, with students especially highlighting an enhanced understanding of the interconnection between both modules and good team dynamics. The few negative comments mainly focused on the tight project timeline and the subpar contribution of single team members. While we did not have a control group without a JMP, the project results and overall performances in both modules indicate that the JMP might positively contribute to the acquirement of the module learning outcomes.
The gained experience, positive feedback, and excellent results of the JMP show, that a group project comprising multiple modules is not only beneficial in its current form but could be further extended. Therefore, we are planning to design an elaborate study to research and develop a curriculum integrated project, that would be based on a continuous group project with a specific theme and include many modules from one or different programs across multiple study trimesters.