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ACOM 4300 “Senior Capstone Project” Course Learning Outcomes
Course Big Questions
- What are our ethical responsibilities as communication scholars?
- How do we use our communication knowledge and skills to co-create better social worlds?
The senior capstone project course is designed to provide students an opportunity to integrate the knowledge and skills that have been gained from their major courses to the experiences from their personal lives. Specifically, the writing and presentation required should tap the knowledge, analytic abilities, writing and presentation skills, and insights students have acquired through study, observation, and involvement in the communication field. Intended Learning Outcomes
By completing the senior capstone project, students will demonstrate their abilities to:
• Analyze messages; • Develop messages; • Anticipate communication barriers; • Collaborate with others to accomplish communicative goals; • Embrace difference; and • Influence discourse.
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Capstone Project Learning Outcomes
- Engineering Design Objectives
- Engineering Design Constraints
- Engineering Design Process
- Engineering Design Stages
- Engineering Design Languages
- Engineering Design Tools and Templates
- Engineering Standards
- Engineering Drawings
- Make or Buy Decision
- Material and Manufacturing Process Selection
- Mechanical - Electrical - Electronic Components Selection
- Engineering Reliability and Risk Management
- Project Planning and Control
- Engineering Ethics
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Capstone Project Evaluation Criteria
- Capstone Project Selection
- Previous Capstone Projects
- Student Competitions
- Industrial Training Learning Outcomes
- Industrial Training Report
- Industrial Training Evaluation
- Industrial Training Insurance Process
- Industrial Training Forms
- Industrial Training Companies
- Portfolio - Resume - Cover Letter - Interview
- Industrial Safety
- Research Centers
- Research Interests
- Useful for Research
- Resume Writing
- Capstone Design
At the completion of the course, the students must demonstrate to attain the following Course Learning Outcomes and Students Outcomes.
Course Learning Outcomes:
- Define design objectives, design constraints and product specifications according to the stakeholder and project requirements.
- Collect and review related data such as technical information, regulations, and standards etc. from credible literature resources, published research, and patents etc. to generate solutions.
- Manage concept generation and concept evaluation process, analyze and compare design alternatives/possible solutions, at the system and subsystem levels, and use measures of performance or other criteria to rank alternatives.
- Execute the design strategy and project plan (work breakdown structure) to ensure timely and within-budget completion of the project.
- Design a system to meet the design criteria and constraints (such as cost, economic, resource availability, environment, sustainability, safety, manufacturability, assembly, reliability, testing and maintenance, and product life cycle considerations).
- Execute manufacturing/ simulation/ implementation plan by selecting the suitable manufacturing/ simulation/ implementation techniques.
- Verification and validation of the project objectives according to the relevant engineering standards/ requirements/ design criteria.
- Understand the significance of relevant engineering standards for materials, components, manufacturing and product qualification.
- Understand the major characteristics of engineering drawings and generate engineering drawings according to the technical drawing standards (layout, assembly drawing, parts drawings, etc.)
- Manage design documentation and communication (both orally and in writing) using language and graphics appropriate to the technical discipline, with the necessary supporting material, to achieve desired understanding and impact.
- an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
- an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.
- an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
- an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
- an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.
- an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
- an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
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Develop a capstone.
The first half of this document defines and discusses the capstone experience. The latter half covers using capstones for program assessment .
The Capstone Experience
The capstone experience is a culminating set of experiences that “captivate, encapsulate, synthesize, and demonstrate learning.” 
Keys to the Capstone
- In a capstone course, students synthesize, integrate, and/or apply their previous knowledge, rather than acquire new knowledge or skills. Students demonstrate mastery, not learn new knowledge/skills.
- A capstone should occur near the end of the program. [Tip: schedule the capstone course before the student’s last semester in case remediation is needed.]
- Student ownership, responsibility, and engagement should be central to the capstone.
- Rationale for the framework (see below) should be based on the specific needs of the program/discipline.
- The products (e.g., written assignments) of the capstone should be designed to help assess the program’s desired student learning outcomes.
- Discussion, reflection, and/or demonstration of general education and/or institutional outcomes should be evident in the capstone. [Note: some general education outcomes may not be relevant, but a capstone experience can likely address these general education outcomes: effective written and oral communication, ethical decision making, information accessing and information processing, problem solving, inquiry and analysis methods.]
- Satisfactory completion of the capstone experience should be required for graduation.
- Full-time (tenured) faculty members should facilitate, mentor, and/or coordinate the capstone experience.
Frameworks for a Capstone Experience
There are four common frameworks for capstones (see Rowles, et al .). Programs typically choose one as the primary framework based on their program’s needs. If/when appropriate, the other frameworks may also be incorporated or acknowledged.
- Mountaintop . Students from two or more disciplines (or specializations) engage in interdisciplinary inquiry. For example: Geography majors and Biology majors enroll in their major’s capstone courses and are paired with a student from the other discipline. Each GEOG-BIOL pair of students completes an interdisciplinary project such as a project that uses geographic information systems (GIS) to monitor fish migration patterns or habitat changes.
- Magnet . Students pull together their learning from multiple courses and/or experiences. For example, students gather their best work samples from four courses (can also include internship, practicum, service learning, etc.), choosing samples that directly address the program’s learning outcomes.
- Mandate . Students document their learning in relation to external industry/professional standards or requirements. For example, civil engineering students gather evidence to demonstrate they have achieved the outcomes set forth by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
- Mirror . Students reflect on their experiences and metacognitive skills in relation to program goals and outcomes. For example, students write short reflective pieces that describe what they have learned and how their assignments and experiences have helped them achieve each program outcome.
Options for Courses/Activities within the Capstone Experience
A capstone experience can consist of one or a combination of these:
- A course in the major
- An interdisciplinary course with a minimum of two distinctly different disciplines represented
- An out-of-class/co-curricular experience
- A service- and/or community-based learning experience
- An application/demonstration of knowledge (e.g., thesis, design project, portfolio development)
- A college-to-work/career transition experiences (e.g., internship, informational interviewing)
Pedagogic Practices for Capstone Experiences
Professors typically use some of the following teaching strategies and methods in capstone experiences:
- Collaborative learning
“ Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Usually, students are working in groups of two or more, mutually searching for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product. . . Most center on students’ exploration or application of course material, not simply the teacher’s presentation or explication of it. Collaborative learning represents a significant shift away from the typical teacher-centered or lecture-centered milieu in college classrooms.” Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education (1992) by Anne S. Goodsell, et al., National Center on Postsecondary Teaching. Available thru interlibrary loan from UH Hilo, LB1032.C65.1992.
- Self-directed learning
Faculty members give students choices about their learning as well as responsibility for the consequences associated with those choices. The faculty member (or internship supervisor, co-op employer, etc.) establishes the necessary structures to guide and support students while still leaving the students to do such things as establish goals, create timelines, monitor progress, develop products for evaluation, etc.
- Problem-based learning
Faculty members give students an ill-defined task to complete or an open-ended problem to solve. The faculty member acts as a mentor, coach, and/or facilitator. Often the task/problem mirrors an actual, discipline-based task/problem but it has been simplified or structured to match the level of the students.
- Learner-centered ( Learner-centered = a focus on what the students are learning and doing, not on what the professor is delivering or doing)
Discussion Questions for Faculty Members as They Consider a Program Capstone Experience
- An interdisciplinary, synthesizing experience?
- A discipline-specific, synthesizing experience?
- A method to satisfy external industry/professional standard or requirements?
- A reflective, synthesizing experience?
- Is it necessary to satisfy discipline/profession accreditation requirements?
- In what ways will the capstone experience be beneficial to the students’ post-baccalaureate experience?
- In what ways will the capstone experience support the (relevant) general education requirements?
- What components of the capstone experience will address students’ personal growth? Academic growth? Professional growth?
- How will students be guided toward and prepared for the capstone experience? What program structures will be in place (e.g., course requirements, pre-requisites, advising)?
Using a Capstone Experience for Program Assessment
When using a capstone experience for program assessment, the standard assessment loop is followed: establish outcomes, create learning opportunities, undertake an assessment process, interpret assessment results, and create and implement an action plan for improvement.
Establish Student Learning Outcomes & Determine Learning Opportunities
- The program creates desired Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) [ How to develop outcomes ].
- The program deliberately incorporates learning opportunities—activities and assignments—into the curriculum and capstone experience so that students can achieve the desired SLOs. Typically, the program can assess all or nearly all program SLOs using the capstone experience. A well-designed curriculum plotted on a curriculum map illustrates how and where SLOs are introduced, reinforced, and then mastered and demonstrated in the capstone experience. [ How to create a curriculum map ].
Assessment Process: Collecting and Evaluating/Analyzing Evidence
The assessment process should lead to a discussion of the program as a whole—not only a discussion of the capstone experience.
The program typically builds evidence-generating, -collecting, and -evaluating mechanisms into the capstone experience.
Collection of Evidence: Student Learning
When designing the capstone experience, programs build in assignments/activities that can shed light on the SLOs and relevant general education outcomes. The assignments/activities serve as evidence of student achievement. Students can complete them over time [ How to develop portfolios ] or in a single, culminating course.
Examples of assignments/activities:
- Written documents: research report, thesis, proposal, case study, project report, reflective essay, review of the literature, resume, progress reports, informal writing (notes, lab notebook, observation log, informal analyses, academic journal, etc.)
- Oral presentation(s)
- Poster presentation(s)
- Documentation of group work: peer review/feedback, group progress reports, evaluation of group members/group effectiveness
- Internship supervisor’s evaluation/feedback on student performance
- Interview (e.g., mock job interview, oral defense)
- Meeting facilitation (e.g., students facilitate a community meeting)
- Exam(s) (locally-developed, state, or national)
Evaluation of Evidence of Student Learning
Most capstone experiences include a senior-level course. The course instructor can assist the students in preparing evidence for evaluation.
- Take a (random) sample of students and evaluate their work for the purposes of program assessment.
- Provide the rubric to the students.
- Have professors use the rubric in other courses that introduce or reinforce the SLO.
- Have each professor apply the rubric in the same way. Use examples of student performance at varying levels of mastery to calibrate professors/reviewers.
- Have at least two faculty members evaluate the evidence using criteria agreed upon by the faculty (e.g., use an agreed-upon rubric).
- Have external faculty members and/or business community members evaluate the student work.
Collection of Evidence: Student Perceptions
- End-of-course or end-of-program surveys
- Exit interviews
- Focus groups
Evaluation of Evidence of Student Perception
- Quantitative data (e.g., Likert scale data) can be summarized using descriptive statistics.
- Open-ended survey responses, interview data, focus group data, blogs, etc., can be analyzed using qualitative methods to identify themes and areas of consensus.
The goal of assessment is to provide the program with information it can use to be self-reflective and self-improving. Presenting the results does not need to be complicated. A simple, straightforward presentation of who, what, where, when, and how often suffices. [ How to report results ] Discussion of the results should focus on the SLO(s) and the program, not on individuals.
Action Plan for Improvement
Programs use assessment results to guide program decision making and improve their effectiveness. By periodically discussing assessment results and procedures, faculty can plan and implement improvements to the capstone experience. The focus should be on the program and the learning opportunities (e.g., activities throughout the program, all required courses, etc.), not on individuals.
Assessment: Rubric & Checklist
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) created a rubric to assess programs that use the capstone experience as the basis for program assessment. Programs can use the WASC rubric to self-assess their progress. Below is a checklist based on the WASC rubric.
Checklist . The program has:
Learning Objectives of a Capstone Course Report
A capstone course is one that “seeks to provide a cumulative experience for students enrolled in a degree program”. The students undertaking the capstone course are expected to apply the knowledge acquired from a degree program in a real-life work situation. The courses are normally undertaken in the final year of college or university program. Capstone course has always been done through internships, individual reports, and seminars. Thus the program provides a framework for assessing the student’s ability to apply what has been taught in class. For the course to be effective, its objectives must be clearly defined and relevant to the learning and assessment needs of the students. This paper thus focuses on the objectives of the capstone courses and how they can be presented in a syllabus.
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Learning Objectives of a Capstone Course
Integration of knowledge.
The main objective of a capstone course is to enable the students to integrate the knowledge gained as a result of pursuing a given degree program in college or university. The course should enable the students to integrate the skills and concepts learned systematically during their stay at the university. This means that the course content will focus on refreshing the student’s memory on what he or she was taught in class. This helps them to remember the entire content of the degree program and its application.
The students should be able to integrate all aspects of the course which includes the theory, practical skills, and communication skills. They should be in a position to combine the diverse skills acquired in class and apply them in a work environment. This is based on the fact that the ultimate objective of the pursued course is to enable the students to transfer or apply their skills to the challenging work environment. The capstone program thus acts as a self-assessment mechanism that reminds the students of the expected learning outcomes. Besides, it allows them to evaluate the degree to which they have achieved the learning outcomes.
Professional Level Performance
Having completed a particular course, the students should not only be able to apply the course content to real-life work situations but should be able to do so in a professional manner. The capstone course should, therefore, focus on helping students to perfect their technical skills in handling a given task. This requires the students to have hands-on experience in their respective fields of specialization. To achieve this objective, many capstone courses include an internship program.
The students are expected to find a business or an organization whose core activities are relevant to the pursued course. The student is then expected to work in the organization for a definite period to demonstrate his or her skills as well as to improve or learn new skills. The internship experience also helps the students to improve their communication skills by interacting with the management of the organizations they work for at different levels. The student should thus be able to perform at the level of a professional at the end of the internship or field experience.
Depth of Knowledge
The capstone course acts as a basis for determining the amount of information the student has retained and how well such information has been understood. The objective of the course, in this case, is to ensure that students have fully understood the topics taught in class. Consequently, most capstone courses include a teaching session whereby the students are expected to tutor underclassmen for a given number of hours. This enables the professor to evaluate the students’ understanding of the topic. Students who can demonstrate a full understanding of various topics are considered successful. However, those who are not able to demonstrate a clear understanding of various topics may be required to take more study hours to improve their knowledge.
Pursuing a Career
Other than helping students to integrate skills and concepts taught in class, the capstone course also offers training on career development. The course aims at equipping the students with skills that help them to “create working resumes, develop professional interview skills and how to develop a successful career”. Upon successful completion of the capstone course, the students should be able to consider all aspects of their knowledge and portray their abilities to potential employers.
How to Present the Objectives in a Syllabus
The overall learning objectives of the capstone course should be informed by the learning goals of a department. This means that the syllabus of the capstone course should incorporate the learning goals and objectives of the programs pursued by the students. The syllabus should focus on the use of direct assessments instead of indirect ones to capture the real potential of students. Standard examinations should be offered due to the following reasons. First, when using nationally acknowledged exams, interdepartmental or interuniversity comparison of students’ performance can be done with the aid of percentiles. Second, standard exams are informative and will thus allow the professor to use sub-scores to evaluate different skills. Finally, the tests should be flexible enough to incorporate questions submitted by departments.
Role of the Syllabus in Presenting the Objectives
The syllabus acts as a contract that defines the relationship or association of the instructors and their students. It specifies what the students expect during the semester and also guides the behavior of the students and the instructors. Thus the syllabus will define the responsibilities of the learners as well as the instructors in the learning and assessment process. For the syllabus to be effective in presenting the objectives of the capstone course, its content should include the following.
First, it should have a clear and accurate calendar that specifies the time needed to complete the course. Besides, the calendar should indicate the activities the students are expected to perform or task to be completed within a particular period. For example, it should indicate when exams are to be done or the due dates of assignments. Second, the syllabus should address the policies which have impacts on students. Such policies include the assessment criteria and their contribution to the final grade. For example, if practical skills will account for a greater percentage in the final grade, the students will be expected to excel in the internship programs.
The syllabus should address policies concerning the learners’ academic freedom. Since most capstone courses involve practical experiences in an actual work environment, the students should be aware of the level of freedom granted to them. This will not only help them to maintain ethical standards but will also help them to focus on the academic aspect of their field experience. In a class environment, students should respect the rights of their colleagues to air their opinions regarding course topics to enhance better understanding.
Third, the syllabus being a contract will include a disclaimer. This means that it will specify what the students expect to achieve at the end of the course. Apart from this, the syllabus should indicate what the students will not be able to do with the knowledge gained from the course. For example, a capstone course for an engineering program may enable a student to operate a machine but may not enable him or her to design and develop similar machines.
Thus the expected achievements and the limitations of the course have to be specified and this forms the basis for evaluating the success of the course. Finally, it should indicate the rights and responsibilities of disabled students. Due to physical disabilities, some students might not be able to engage in field experiences or internship programs for a long period. The syllabus must thus indicate alternative learning and assessment methods that will be used to accommodate the disabled students. This will help in ensuring that the objectives of the course are achieved uniformly.
The syllabus acts as a permanent record of what was taught in the course. As a permanent record, the syllabus helps in stating and achieving the objectives of the capstone course in the following ways. First, the syllabus promotes accountability on the part of the instructor and the students. Thus the instructor will set achievable course objectives, given the available resources and the abilities of the students. Once such objectives have been set, the instructor and the students will strive to achieve them. Second, it encourages documentation of the course achievements. This acts as a basis for evaluating the course and planning for the future.
Due to the increase in online degree programs and the use of the internet in learning, most students are not able to interact with their professors on a face to face basis. Thus in the absence of the instructor, the syllabus will act as a guide that will enable the learner to achieve the course objectives.
The above discussion indicates that a capstone course aims at helping students to integrate the knowledge acquired throughout their stay in an institution of higher education. Apart from the classwork, the course also involves filed experience or internship. The assessment of the course focuses on the students’ ability to remember the content of the pursued course and their ability to apply the acquired knowledge in a work environment. As discussed above, the syllabus acts as a guide and enables the learners and the instructors to achieve the objectives of the capstone course.
Barns, Cathleen. “The Evolution of a Graduate capstone Accounting Course.” Journal of Accounting Education 24 (2006): 118-133.
Goldberg, Jay. Capstone design courses: producing industry ready biomedical engineers. London: Morgan and Claypool Publishers, 2007. Print.
Gruenther, Kristen, Reid Bailey and Jennifer Wilson. “The Influence of Prior Industry Experience and Multidisciplinary Teamwork on Student Design Learning in Capstone Design Course.” Design Studies 30(2009): 721-736.
Hall, Charles, Gary Fairchild and Gregory Baker. “Agribusiness Capstone Courses Design: Objectives and Strategies.” International Food and Agribusiness Management Review 6(2003): 346-380.
Lilly, Gregory and Thomas Tiemann. “On the Struggel to Attain Universal Competence in a Complex Skill: the Case of Senior Capstone Experience.” Design Studies 6(2008): 212-230.
Oehrtman, Sandra, Dianne Smolen and Karen Hoblet. “The Comprehensive Examination: Viable Mater’s of Science in Capstone Course.” Journal of Professioanl Nursing 36(2010): 360-365.
Parkes, Jay and Mary Harris. “The Purspose of a Syllabus.” Collage Teaching 50(2002): 55-62.
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The Capstone Experience
Capstone experience integrates coursework, knowledge, skills and experiential learning to enable the student to demonstrate a broad mastery of learning across the curriculum for further career advancement.
The capstone experience enables students to:
- have an overview of what they have accomplished in their degree program
- relate discipline-specific learning outcomes to the real world
- link their knowledge and abilities to future employment or higher education
- showcase their competency in certain areas
- substantiates personal and academic learning as well as professional development and achievement.
Capstone experiences include but are not limited to
- culminating senior experiences
- achievement portfolio
- senior project
- comprehensive examination
- field experience, co-op experience, clinical assignment
- study abroad
Capstone experience can be implemented as a capstone course or as capstone experience that is spread out in several courses in a degree program.
Capstone experience typically involves:
- integrating and extending knowledge, skills, perspectives gained through previous coursework, thus demonstrating program’s outcomes concretely
- reflecting on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which the student’s capstone work poses a contribution.
- bridging coursework with students’ careers after graduation
- preparing students for life-long learning
- the outcome is a tangible product to be presented to the public (written work, oral presentation, multimedia productions in various forms such as websites, CDs, DVDs)
- topics are selected by students and approved by faculty
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The senior capstone project course is designed to provide students an opportunity to integrate the knowledge and skills that have been gained
Course Learning Outcomes: · Define design objectives, design constraints and product specifications according to the stakeholder and project requirements.
[Note: some general education outcomes may not be relevant, but a capstone experience can likely address these general education outcomes: effective written and
specifically capstone courses and experiences. With respect to student learning outcomes, students completing a capstone course should be able to:.
The main objective of a capstone course is to enable the students to integrate the knowledge gained as a result of pursuing a given degree
through their projects. 3. Learning Outcomes. National best practices recommend that Capstone courses should deliver the learning.
culminating senior experiences; achievement portfolio; senior project; thesis ... Capstone experience can be implemented as a capstone course or as capstone
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