Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Designing a Capstone Course

Greetings from the Moot Court at the Australian National University where Professor Sally Kift is speaking on "The Capstone Experience and Designing a Capstone Course". She co-authored "Work-integrated learning as a component of the capstone experience in undergraduate law". The term "capstone" is used by educators to indicate a final course which rounds off the student's experience and prepares them for the wider world.  The metaphor with a capstone (or Coping) on a wall is used to protect the wall from the elements and so I am not sure if this makes a lot of sense in the educational environment. To have to have a "capstone" course suggests to me a symptom of a problem with an academic program. If it is necessary to inset an additional course to provide some connection to the real world and to practical skills for the student, then what are they l;earning in the rest of their program? If the student is undertaking a vocally related program (such as in medicine, law, engineering or computing), then they should be having real world experiences during the course. It would be disastrous if the only time the student did anything useful was in their last course.As fat as I can see the "capstone" approach is designed to retrofit some vocationally relevant skills to programs which either were not designed to get the student a job, or not do it well.Also it strikes me that the techniques well established in TAFE vocational education, where students have to demonstrate they have the skills needed for a particular job, are being applied to university degrees.That could be a good thing, but will require different training for staff (the difference between a Certificate in Higher Education and a Vocational Certificate in Training and Assessment). The obvious way to collect the evidence for the student has the required skills is with an e-portfolio, however, this assumes the student has been trained in how to prepare an e-portfolio and the staff know how to asses them.

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