Early Reflections about the ITiS Project

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I have just looked at the second reflection made by the students in my groups regarding the start of the project in the IT in Society course. It has been an interesting read that give some insights into the challenges for the students, but also for us as faculty running such a course. Here area few of my observations:

A student points out that they are not supposed to create a product and that this is something they are not used to. The student also muses that this might make it hard to work on the project, for instance since they will only cover the start of the project. I did find this intriguing as it reminded me of the discussion regarding product vs process as the assessing unit in a course unit. I think there are merits and weaknesses with either extreme, but argue that a combination is generally advisable. Another aspect is the interpretation of product, since I think this concept is much broader that an artefact (or running program). For instance, the students in the IT in Society course will write a report for the client and to not view this as a product is interesting to me. Perhaps we should be better at conveying different views on what a product can be.

Another interesting observation is that an added complexity of the task is that it is not enough that the members of a group understand the plan for the work, which they are what they are used to. This is, I think, similar to another student pointing out that the project will be more tougher than first assumed (due to no programming). One student makes a clear reference to open-ended problems, which is something that we have written quite extensively about (here are a few examples: The Contribution of Open Ended Group Project to International Student Collaborations, Open Ended Group Projects a ‘Tool” for More Effective Teaching, Open-Ended Projects Opened Up – Aspects of Openness (to be presented at ASEE/IEEE FIE in three weeks), and Developing and Assessing Professional Competencies: a Pipe Dream?)

Most identifies cultural differences as a risk in the project and point out the excellent seminar hold by Helena Bernáld on this issue. An interesting manifestation of this is that three out of four group leaders are Americans, despite the fact that they have less time in their study plan for the collaboration and that they are only a third of the students in the project. This fact is definitely something for the student group to be aware of as it could influence the pace of the project. It was also interesting to note that the student assumed this was ok since we’ve run the collaboration for many years and thus would know that this would not be a problem. This comment indicate to me that there is a view that there are a recipe for how to conduct a project of this kind, rather than there being some generally good advise that would be helpful given that they are adapted to a particular setting.

 

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IT in Society 2017 – Project start

The kick-off week in the IT in Society course is approaching its end. Nine students from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA are here to start a collaboration with twenty students at Uppsala University. Their task this semester is to investigate the issue of positioning in a major hospital. It will be interesting to hear them tomorrow when they will present their ideas for how they will approach this issue this semester to the clients. The clients are centrally placed at the hospital, including the Chief Digital Officer at Uppsala University Hospital and also leading persons at the Department of Electronic Medical Records at the County Council of Uppsala.

It is interesting how the setting provide a win-win situation. The gain for the clients include getting a different, and holistic, perspective on for them important aspects of their enterprise. Our cooperation stretches back to 2005, which we see as a good indicator that our clients value what our students do. The gain for the students is the development of for them relevant professional competencies, especially for those that truly engage in the project. Perhaps the most essential is to learn how to deal with open-ended problems, where they need to deal with complexities and uncertainties which prevent them from jumping right into coming up with solutions. A gain for then faculty is that each year is different presenting new challenges and opportunities to learn about how to support students in their development of professional competencies.