Capstone Courses Semester-Conversion Course Group Report

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Nov 25, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

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Capstone Courses

Semester
-
Conversion Course Group Report

Background


A Capstone Design course serves as a class in which students synthesize
interdisciplinary solutions to open
-
ended problems
, while working with their peers.
Most Computer Science Capstone Design courses appeared to have gravitated to
externally sponsored projects where an attempt is made to create a project setting
that is representative of the real
-
world


in that the project
s had a customer that
provided requirements, and uncertainties such as scope, priorities, unknown
technologies and delivery deadlines. Capstone Design courses were mostly offered
in the final year of an Undergraduate program as a culminating Senior Project

experience that created important assets for students’ employment portfolio. These
courses were sometimes connected with internships


as lead
-
ins or extensions to
internships or replacements for internships.


Within
CSE

our
Capstone Design

courses play
an important role in
the

ABET
certification process.


The ABET criterion for such courses states:


Students must be prepared for engineering practice through a curriculum
culminating in a major design experience based on the knowledge and skills
acquired i
n earlier course work and incorporating appropriate engineering
standards and multiple realistic constraints.


Thus:

1.

The curriculum must *culminate* in this course
. While s
ome students may
well take more than
one Capstone Design course,
each has to be desi
gned to
be a culminating experience.

2.

The course must be a m
ajor design is an absolute requirement.
Thus,
a
course focused on arbitrary research
or project
work is not appropriate.

3.

The course m
ust be based on knowledge and skills acquired in ear
lier course

work. That is, the c
apstone
design
course should not

introduce
new topics
that students have to learn before they can work on the design project. If
such prerequisite knowledge is required, a suitable tech
nical

elective should
be developed where
the

stude
nt can acquire the knowledge

before taking the
capstone design course in question.

4.

The course must "i
ncorporate engineering standards
.” In Computer Science
standards may be interpreted as accepted coding standards, standard
methodologies, interface standar
ds (such as SQL) and data standards.

5.

The course project must incorporate "m
ultiple realistic constraints
.” These
constraints will drive the design. Schedule is almost always a constraint in
these projects. Functional and non
-
functional requirements will al
so be
sources of constraints.


The

capstone
design
courses
also
help
to
meet
CSE program

requirements with
respect to team work, lifelong learning, and communication skills. These
requirements are described at
http://www.cse.ohio
-
state.edu/~neelam/abet/DIRASSMNT/secondGroup.html
.

Current
Set of Courses in the Group


The CSE program currently
comprises the

following 5
Capstone Design

courses:

1.

CSE 682: Computer Animation

2.

CSE 731: Knowledge
-
Based Systems

3.

CSE 758: Software Engineering Project

4.

CSE 762: Web
-
Services
Capstone Design

5.

CSE 772: Information System Project

6.

CSE 778: Computer
-
Aided Design and Analysis of VLSI Circuits

7.

CSE 786: Game Design

Evaluation of Courses


This p
ackage of
Capstone Design

courses has several advantages, as follows:



Ability to take multiple
Capstone Design

courses: Each
Capstone Design

course has a different focus, and flavor, and students may take multiple of
these courses so as to be able to see n
ew areas, to get multiple project
experiences and sometimes to compensate for a bad previous project
experience.



Focus in a disciplinary area
: Some of these courses


such as the VLSI,
knowledge
-
based systems and the game capstone
allow for a deep project

experience in a particular area
.



Industry engagement
: Certain of these courses serve as “safe” ways in which
to give students real industry relevant experiences.



Introduction to research
: They
have
serve
d

as a way to connect
UG students
with research proj
ects



Employment
portfolio
: E
specially for those without

internships, these
Capstone Design

courses serve as a means of getting real
-
world experience.



End
-
to
-
end project v
isibility
:

The software intensive
Capstone Design

courses


758, 762, 772 and 786


pr
ovide an experience of the full lifecycle
of

software project
s
.



Learn from others: Students in group
-
projects learn from each other, but also
by observing the other
groups
in the class. Since each group typically has
different experiences, this observation

give
s

wider
visibility into multiple
aspects

of projects
.


Students have been very appreciative of these project courses, as evidenced by
solicited feedback in SET/SEI, and the exit surveys as well as unsolicited feedback
from students
.


There are also
the following disadvantages and issues

with our current
Capstone
Design

package
:



Consistency
: Each course has differences in

technology exposure,
process
used,
management
,
and
prerequisites
. Certain
Capstone Design

courses

(758) emphasize the process and p
rovide process guidance,
but (being
technology agnostic) might not include attractive technologies,
while
others care only about the final product, and let the process be mostly ad
hoc.

This lack of consistency extends to
the learning outcomes, and hence
t
he assessment components as well.



Overlap:
Several
courses are similar, in particular, 758, 762 and
772
.



Short duration
: The quarter
-
long duration results in a

lack of depth

in the
experience. Students get exposure to issues, but rarely get to solve them.



Weight
:

Since there are a number of
Capstone Design
s and students can
take more than one, the project does not have the importance of a
“senior
project
.




Narrow
non
-
integrative,
sub
-
disciplinary view
:

The fact that these
courses evolved from the disciplina
ry tracks
within CS, such as
AI, SE,
VLSI,
and Databases,

means that the focus is narrowed to “how to apply
AI,” or “how to do apply a software methodology,” rather than holistic

problem solving

where
multiple

technical and non
-
technical
techniques

drawn from more than one sub
-
discipline
are

applied

in a manner
tailored to the project
.




Lack of
applications that use
emerging
technologies
:

In addition to
exposing students to current and established technologies like J2EE or
.NET, students will benefit

from early exposure to emerging technologies
that are just
coming into commercial use



such as MapReduce and
Hadoop

for data a
nalytics, HPC
,
sensors and networking
,
visualization,
knowledge
-
based
systems

(
using

OWL and Protégé)
, and social
networking fra
meworks (Google API, Facebook API etc.)
.

These
technologies are today where web services were several years ago.



Missing coverage:

Once again, because of a
lack of flexibility caused by a
disciplinary focus, there are important areas where there are no
cap
stone
d
esign

courses


such as in syste
ms software (operating systems and
embedded systems
)
.



Infrastructure support: Several Capstone Design projects are done by
students on their personal machines. Certain capstones (CSE 758 and CSE
762) are now using th
e department “cloud.”



Lack of alignment: Primarily because our
Capstone Design

courses are
only one quarter long, they are not
aligned with
Capstone Design

courses
in other Departments, or with the College’s interdisciplinary
Capstone
Design
. Thus, creati
ng projects where students from multiple disciplines
collaborate is difficult.




No leverage by the Department

for development purposes
:
Capstone
Design

projects

are extremely
showcases for

student and donor
recruitment, and industry sponsorship. We are
simply
not leveraging
these courses

for these purposes
.

Conversion to Semesters


The semester conversion gives us an opportunity to increase the scope of the
Capstone Design

experiences we provide to our students as well as to address
several of the defi
ci
encies listed above.
In the new structure, the Department will
continue to offer multiple Capstone Design courses, while offering sponsors and
students the opportunity to use the Software Applications Capstone for projects that
do not fit in the other Caps
tones. The semester conversion will be used as an
opportunity to retire Capstones


such as the VLSI Capstone. One faculty member
will be formally or informally responsible for the overall coordination of all the
Capstones. Capstone faculty will also colla
borate on evaluation as well as joint
showcasing of the Capstone projects to industry, alumni, potential new students etc.


Thus, t
he following Capstone courses will be offered:

1.

Software Applications: 4901. Coordinator: Rajiv Ramnath

2.

Game Design: 4902. Co
ordinator: Roger Crawfis.

3.

Animation: 4903. Coordinator: Rick Parent.

4.

Knowledge
-
based Systems: 4904. Coordinator: Eric Fossler
-
Lussier
(Instructor: Naeem Shareef)


One additional Capstone course is under consideration:

1.

Data Management: 4905. Coordinator: Ha
kan Ferhatosmanoglu


All Capstones will share a set of common learning outcomes
(see below)
that will
support the CSE Program Outcomes. They may have individualized learning
outcomes in addition.


Certain advantages of our current system could, however, be

lost
. The proposed
program will become

mo
re complex in terms of planning,
management

and
allocation of teaching credit
. Also, because semesters have a larger granularity, the
current ability of students to take multiple
Capstone Design
s will be reduced.

F
inally, the number of students in steady state will increase (
roughly
by a third
,

simply because 2 semesters is equivalent to

3 quarters).


<Syllabii of the courses>

Program

Outcomes


Our current model, indeed the model that ABET expects, is that the Capst
one Design
program make major contributions to achieving several of our program outcomes.
In particular, the capstone course is expected to contribute to each of the following
outcomes (number of asterisks indicate the importance of the Capstone Design
cou
rse's contribution to the corresponding outcome):


1.

(***) an ability to design, implement, and evaluate a software or a

software/hardware system, component, or process to meet desired needs

within realistic constraints such as memory, runtime efficiency, as

well as
appropriate constraints related to economic, environmental,

social, political,
ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and

sustainability
considerations;

2.

(***) an ability to function on multi
-
disciplinary teams;

3.

(***) an ability to
identify, formulate, and solve engineering

problems;

4.

(**) an understanding of professional, ethical, legal, security

and social issues
and responsibilities;

5.

(***) an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences;

6.

(**) an ability to analyze
the local and global impact of computing on

individuals, organizations, and society;

7.

(**) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life
-
long learning
and continuing professional development;

8.

(**) an ability to use the techniques, skills,
and modern

engineering tools
necessary for practice as a CSE professional;

9.

(***) an ability to apply mathematical foundations, algorithmic principles,
and computer science theory in the modeling and design of computer
-
based
systems in a way that demonstrat
es comprehension of the tradeoffs involved
in design choices; (***: this last clause about tradeoffs is especially
important.)

10.

(**) an ability to apply design and development principles in the

construction
of software systems of varying complexity.

Common

Learning Outcomes


1.

Master synthesizing and applying prior knowledge to designing and
implementing solutions to open
-
ended computational problems while
considering multiple realistic constraints.

2.

Be competent in evaluating design alternatives.

3.

Be competent

with software design and development practices and standards

4.

Be familiar with researching and evaluating computing tools and practices for
solving given problems.

5.

Be competent with deadline driven projects in a team setting.

6.

Be competent with issues of pr
oject management, such as teamwork, project
scheduling, individual and group time management.

7.

Be competent with presenting work to a group of peers.

8.

Be familiar with presenting work to a range of audiences.

9.

Be competent with techniques for effective writte
n communication for a range of
purposes (user guides, design documentation, storyboards etc.)

10.


Be familiar with analyzing professional issues, including ethical, legal and
security issues, related to computing projects.

Prerequisites


All

Capstone Design

courses
will have the Junior Project

courses

and the Ethics
course as pre
-
requisites.
C
oordinators of the
Capsto
ne Design courses will specify
additional pre
-
requisites, such as:




Software
Applications
: Software Engineering



Game Design: Software Engineerin
g

(TBD)
, Graphics, AI

courses.



Animation: Graphics courses



Knowledge
-
based Systems: AI courses.



Data Management: Databases.



Systems
and Networking
: Systems
-
2


If the Engineering Education Innovation Center offers a project management course,
it could be
considered as a pre
-
requisite for Capstone courses other than the
Software Applications Capstone

(for which Software Engineering is already a pre
-
requisite with sufficient project management content)
.


Allowing holistic problem solving by using techniques
from multiple technical
disciplines will increase the design experience, because students will have to select
more than one technology or approach in order to solve a problem, which is an
important and very realistic design problem. Finally, the learning t
hey will do
-

to
pick up and integrate these new technologies


will contribute strongly to the
lifelong learning aspect of the course.


There is a concern that
in any form of consolidation students will lack the necessary
pre
-
requisites to succeed in the
project.
In reality, there are ways to both manage
this, and
, in fact,

leverage this

as an opportunity
.


There are
significant

concepts and techniques that students do not

know when it
comes to designing a
nd building a realistic system, and no amount of c
urricular pre
-
requisites will provide the students with everything they need to apply to their
project. The students
pick up these skills

as they do the project
, and the Capstone
faculty and mentors help them in this process as well.


Also,
ensuring appro
priate prerequisites

can be handled by the project selection and
assignment process. Thus, a particular

(say, g
ame) project can have a condition that
it can only be done by a group where a critical mass of students
in a team
has taken
the Graphics and the
AI courses.

Course Management


1.

Common processes and project management:
Where applicable, and as
determined by the final structure of the Capstone Design courses,

a cadre of
faculty will establish common processes for project intake, execution,
assessment
and publicity. For the Applications Capstone Design, the
management faculty will most likely be our current adjunct and clinical faculty.

2.

Handling increased number of students: A Capstone Design course might be split
into multiple sections, as needed.

3.

Team

mentors: In addition to the faculty managing the classes, and the
“customers” of the projects, teams could
need

project mentors that understand
and can help with applying
specific technologies
or methodologies
used in the
project. Mentoring could be in so
me cases
be

the customers

themselves
.
In most
cases, m
entors
will be

other faculty with
the necessary
expertise.

4.

Common Infrastructure: The department’s “cloud” will provide the necessary
computing resources.

5.

Teaching credit assignment:



Faculty that have
the responsibility for Capstone Design courses will
receive appropriate teaching credit in the normal manner.



Faculty who actively mentor Capstone Design teams will receive credit of
I course equivalent for mentoring a certain number of teams (say 5).

Exte
rnal
Validation

and Showcasing


All

projects
should

meet externally relevant requirements.

The importance of this
requirement cannot be understated

in providing the students with a rich experience
and in meeting ABET requirements
.
For example,

there
could

be a
real
customer
that
provides

the requirements,
the project attempt
s

to demonstrate user
acceptance and so on.


We propose

a combined Capstone Design showcase on the evening of the last day of
finals’ week. All project sponsors will be required to

attend. Industry
representatives and representatives from the College and University will be invited.

Other E
lements




Integration with
long
-
running projects

and internships
:
While
Capstone
Design

courses will be the only means for receiving
Capstone
Design

credit,
projects may start outside the
Capstone Design

courses (say, as an
internship, research project, or contest) and be continued as a
Capstone
Design

project. Projects may also be initiated within a
Capstone Design

course and continue outside t
he course framework.



Integration with research:
Research faculty may provide projects to
a
ny of
the
Capstone Design

courses
.



Repeatability
: Students may take more than one
Capstone Design

course.
They may also repeat the Application
Capstone Design

course

for credit
.

Issues Not A
ddressed
:




Integration with
the
College
Capstone Design

program will not be
formally
attempted

via the Capstone Design courses
. We will find other means for
achieving this.



Engaging undergraduates in research will not be a goal of
the Capstone
Design courses.

Research projects may certainly be proposed for the
Capstone Design courses if the projects meet the necessary criteria above.