Application development project course held in Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

 The “Application Development Project” course includes students from 4 studying programs: media engineering, industrial management, communications and information technology.  Idea behind using University of Applied Sciences courses, as design and development bed is two fold. From the UAS point of view, it is a good practice for students to be able to use their skills and learn new skill and knowledge in real life tasks. The students select the topics that interested them most. The customers are the ones who presented the topics. After the students select their favorite topics, the teachers check that the teams are built so that all studying programs are represented in every team. This way the teams get interdisciplinary composition, which is seen to provide wider perspective for their teamwork. The teams start to design and plan what the topic can provide, what could the tool to be designed for the users. The customer that proposed the design challenges can come from industry, small and medium sized companies or from EU-projects such as Learning Layers. The design idea is developed into a working prototype with a business plan and market analysis.

The course is a project course spanning three months and worth 10 ETCS and last for one semester – usually autumn semester from September to mid December.

Involved companies, projects or associations 2013: Ehyt ry (ehkäiseväpäihdetyö ry, http://www.ehyt.fi/), Liikenneturva
 (http://www.liikenneturva.fi/), Bluebiit
(http://www.bluebiit.com/en/), Health-e-living
(http://health-e-living.com/), Leadin (http://leadin.fi/en/), Mobile Means (http://www.mobilemeans.com/briefly-in-english/) and EU-Project Learning Layers (http://learning-layers.eu/)

Involved companies, projects or associations 2014: Ehyt ry (ehkäiseväpäihdetyö ry, http://www.ehyt.fi/),  Bluebiit
 (http://www.bluebiit.com/en/),  Ethica (http://www.ethica.fi/en/), Sanoma (https://www.sanoma.com/) and EU-Project Learning Layers (http://learning-layers.eu/)

Description of the course

There are approximately 50 students forming 11 multidisciplinary teams and four teachers (representing all the studying programs). Each student team has 3-6 students.  The teams develop: business plans, user stories, marketing strategy and software architecture to come up with an application and business in use for real users supported by the representative from company, or industry or larger projects e.g. EU-projects. The students are introduced to the practices and methods used in business and application development during lectures by visiting lecturers coming from real working settings.  Students are provided with pre-structured work documents that include domain specific conceptualizations. These documents guide and scope students’ work on their solutions and analysis of related problem spaces. During the design and development phases the students teams produce: user stories, software architecture, mockups, prototypes, sales pitches, and weekly team progress reports presented to the company representative to whom the teams are creating the solution to a design idea. The above documents with other team products are discussed during the once a week steering group sessions. The steering groups consists of 1-2 teachers and 1-2 customer representatives. They are held weekly, and last between 15-45 minutes. The goal of the steering groups is to support the teams to address all relevant aspects of business planning, software development and acquiring users (and business revenue) for their application.

Pedagogical methods

The course follows the project base learning setting, in its form of student teams designing, developing and executing a product to a customer. Because of the tight teamwork and provided templates that push towards collaboration, it can be said that the course also has features from trialogical learning approach (Paavola and Hakkarainen 2005) in its emphasis on iterations of shared artefacts (such as mock-ups, wireframes, usability testing, business plans etc.), collaborative work and cross-fertilization. The cross fertilizations is visible in various level, such as: the team members come from different studying disciplines, there is communication and work executed beyond institute and company borders and student teams have to contact the end-users of the products they develop.

Benefits and how to take part/provide contributions

For the customers (industry/small and medium size companies/EU-projects), the student teams provide fresh ideas, they create working prototypes and test them allowing the customers to investigate more design ideas that otherwise could be possible. The interaction with educational institutes and companies allows both parties to build their networks. Institutes have connections to industry, companies and EU-projects provide work opportunities for the students and bachelor/master and doctoral research possibilities and topics. For the companies the interaction provides new research results, and ideas, new sources of potential workers and potential connections to other companies, projects and industry representatives.

The methods used in the course support engagement through teamwork but also through the once a week steering group meetings. The production of various boundary and shared objects during the course allows deeper knowledge in collaboration (Knowledge creation). Furthermore they learn regulative and relational actions that are related to a) the co-ordinations of activities, definition and division of tasks inside the teams as well as b) the collaboration with customers and other stakeholders outside the teams and c) the presenting of developed ideas and products to them. (Paavola and Muukkonen 2009)

The students get contacts to real life business and practices. Often it has provided a summer job or part job during the studies. The course allows practicing new skills in a safe environment while designing tools for real use. This has amounted to an increase in students’ motivation. The multidisciplinary teams broaden students’ views to see the same challenges and solutions for varied perspectives. The multidisciplinary teams also bring along theories and frameworks that belong to other sciences, which helps to see that issues can be discussed from varied perspectives and through very different theoretical backgrounds. Students have stated that working in the setting like the course described here has provided them skills that they did not deem to be needed nor valued (see Muukkonen and Bauters 2011).

In case you got interested in providing design ideas for student groups, developing a similar course or in getting more information contact Merja Bauters.

Examples of student teams’ projects autumn 2013

Master builder – support folder app

Brikster – brick laying app

Wicam – smart camera app

Contact: Merja.bauters@aalto.fi

Examples of student teams’ projects autumn 2014

HelmetCam – Ach so! GoPro connection

AR for construction

Organising short video clips

Contact: Merja.bauters@aalto.fi

References:

Muukkonen, H. & Bauters, M. (2011). Tiedonluominen ja sosiaalinen media korkeakoulutuksessa – Suorittamisesta yhdessä luomiseen ja arviointiin. Teoksessa T.

Aaltonen-Ogbeide, P. Saastamoinen, H. Rainio & T. Vartiainen (toim.), Silmät auki

sosiaaliseen mediaan (s.126-145). Eduskunnan tulevaisuusvaliokunnan julkaisu 3/2011. Helsinki: Eduskunta. http://www.ttlry.fi/silmät-auki-sosiaaliseen-mediaan/kirjan-teemat

Paavola, S. & Hakkarainen, K. (2005). The knowledge creation metaphor – An emergent epistemological approach to learning. Science & Education, 14, 535-557.

Paavola S. and Muukkonen H. (eds) (2009) D3.2 A comprehensive research strategy. Deliverable for project Knowledge Practices Laboratory (http://www.kp-lab.org/)

 

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