T7-AL2-4 - Accommodating Shortened Term Lengths in a Capstone Course using Minimally Viable Prototypes

2. Research-to-Practice Full Paper
Nathan Eloe1 , Charles Hoot1
1 Northwest Missouri State University

This Full Paper presents a novel way of implementing the first half of a two-semester software design and implementation capstone course. The paper compares prior work from traditional (15-week) terms to a compressed (7-week) format and a significantly compressed (4-week) format employing this approach. To maximize competitiveness, many programs are under pressure to do more with less: competing to provide more outcomes and more practical real-world experiences in less time and with fewer courses. These challenges become especially significant in capstone courses, where students, still learning, must design and implement solutions consolidating a wide variety of skills and knowledge covered in the curriculum.

The capstone course spans two semesters; the first semester focuses on design and the second semester focuses on implementation. In the standard approach, teams meet with the client and develop design documents including use cases, user interface sketches, and data models. In this approach, rather than starting from scratch, students received artifacts from a previous capstone course employing a consultancy model. Artifacts included a request for proposal (RFP), a minimally viable prototype (MVP) partial implementation, and corresponding design documents. The work reviews students' ability to effectively incorporate the provided artifacts to produce a high quality design for complete implementation of the project.

The work includes an evaluation of first-semester team deliverables generated under both the compressed and significantly compressed schedules and relates the expectations and outcomes to those in a traditional-length term. This approach offers a common means to assess schedule impacts and tailor the course in accordance with the relative concentration of contact hours associated with the schedule. This paper describes variations in expectations and options for MVP, client interaction schedules (including frequency and duration), and discusses the associated impacts as perceived by clients and mentors on engagement and student learning outcomes. Finally, the paper offers specific recommendations and lessons learned for those educators that are – or plan to – offer capstone courses under a highly compressed schedule.