Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course
Anne-Maarit Majanoja and Timo Vasankari
Department of Information Technology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Keywords: Capstone, IT Student Projects, Project-based Learning.
Abstract: For students, capstone project represents the culmination of their studies and is typically the last milestone
before graduation. This paper reflects on organizing IT capstone projects in computer science and software
engineering Master programmes in a Sino-Finnish setup. Based on our analysis we introduce various
aspects based on our observations for improving course practicalities, introduction lectures, students’
initiative group working and overall interaction. We also discuss the importance of active learning and
transferring the responsibility of learning from teachers to students in order to achieve the intended learning
outcomes. During a capstone course students design and implement a solution to a complex, ill-defined real-
life problem. We present and discuss the results from student feedback surveys and propose areas for further
During the past years, capstone project has been an
important part of the curricula for studies in
Information Technology (IT). Based on Merriam-
Webster dictionary capstone means: “the high point:
crowning achievement”. Therefore, the project is the
capstone of IT studies where the students use all
their acquired skills and knowledge in culminating
their academic experience. The main idea behind the
capstone course is to provide an opportunity for IT
students to demonstrate their true capacity to
integrate and apply their knowledge and skills to a
real-life (software) engineering problem.
Based on Rasul et al. (2012), capstone project is
a unique type of learning experience for the students
as they mainly work in a self-directed approach and
they are expected to carry out various and numerous
tasks related a large problem without structured
approach provided by teachers. Naturally, the
students are not fully out-of-support, but the idea is
to transfer the learning process to be student-led
instead of teacher-led. While the learning approach
is different, also the assessment is based on different
aspects. The consistency of the assessment practices
of the capstone course needs to be ensured and
clearly communicated to the students. As Mills
(2007), Bramhal et al. (2012) and Gardner and
Willey (2012) identified, the capstone assessment
can include various tools from self- and peer-
evaluation, process and product assessments,
formative and summative assessments (such as the
working process and the final outcome of the
development), and students self-reflection of their
learning in course-diaries/blogs.
The aim of this paper is to reflect on various
aspects of organizing capstone projects as courses.
Structured student feedback collected at the end of
the course expresses student experiences and
provides data to discuss the relevance of various
parts of the course. The students’ feedback and
teachers’ observations are used to provide
recommendations for iterative course development
at the University of Turku, Finland. The University
of Turku and Fudan University, China, have a
strategic partnership of collaboration and provide a
dual master’s degree in Technology. Therefore, the
two main student groups during the capstone courses
were Finnish and Chinese students. In this research
we analyse the master level capstone course
feedback materials from years 2014 to 2017 and
complete the findings with teachers’ observations on
the courses.
The rest of the paper has been divided into four
parts. Section 2 deals with existing research and the
theoretical dimensions of Problem-based Project-
oriented Learning (POPBL). Section 3 describes the
research design. Section 4 presents the findings.
Section 5 includes the conclusions and introduces a
few tasks for further research.
Majanoja, A. and Vasankari, T.
Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course.
DOI: 10.5220/0006665600680077
In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2018), pages 68-77
ISBN: 978-989-758-291-2
2019 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
Over the years, one of the most used approaches has
been the teacher-centric approach, where the teacher
has the full control and authority while lecturing at
the front of the class-room. Senge (1996) wrote that
most people expect to get answers from people
above them, because they have grown up in an
authoritarian environment and culture. Nowadays,
this type of approach does not support the target to
prepare students for their future workplace and face
constantly changing working environment and
requirements. Therefore, the responsibility of
learning and own actions need to be pushed onto the
students’ side. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an
example of a student-centered educational model
(Barrows, 1996; Gwee, 2008, Savin-Baden, 2012)
although based on literature PBL’s effects are
controversial (Dochy et al. 2003; Kirschner et al.
2006; Schmidt et al. 2009). In PBL approach,
students’ own learning process is placed at the
centre of the educational process by supporting the
students to construct their own knowledge, and to
develop problem-solving and group work skills
(Dolmans et al. 2005).
PBL and POPBL based capstone project is one
implementation of a student-centric approach to
provide opportunities for students to apply their
content specific knowledge and workplace skills
gained during their several years of studies (Dunlap,
2005; Lehmann et al., 2008; Dondlinger and
McLeod, 2015). The focus is not only on technical
skills but also on having the ability to identify non-
technical aspects, interaction of those and propose
possible solutions (Lehmann et al., 2008). Since the
1980s, the capstone type of learning approach has
been part of universities’ curriculum (Vanhanen et
al. 2012). The capstone approach is commonly used,
for example, in software development project
courses where students design and develop software
solutions in teams for external customers (Vanhanen
et al., 2012).
Havelka and Merhout (2009) reported IT
professional competences that IT professionals
should have. In addition to technical aspects, many
of the needed skills were non-technical and
behaviour related. Havelka and Merhout (2009)
categorized those skills under four categories: 1)
Personal traits (passion, experience,
conscientiousness, attitude, character, and
flexibility). 2) Professional skills (organization
skills, leadership ability, analytic skills, team-
oriented, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving).
3) Business knowledge (business concepts, business
process knowledge, and organization knowledge). 4)
Technical knowledge (enterprise systems,
development methods, application software, project
management, production data management,
architecture, infrastructure, programming, security &
control, business intelligence, and communication
networks). Practicing these competences is typically
at the core of IT software development capstone
projects’ learning targets.
Reifenberg and Long (2017) wrote that students
value the capstone experience. Based on Dondlinger
and McLeod (2015) and Dondlinger and Wilson
(2012) the capstone experience include challenges,
but still the main approach has been favourable. The
students reported to gain vital skills and
competences, such as, learning new skills when
applying prior knowledge; cultural understanding
and new appreciation for people within their own
culture; interaction and negotiation skills; and self-
awareness (Dondlinger (2012). At the same time,
Reifenberg and Long (2017) wrote of the capstone
challenges, such as mismatch of expectations,
information gaps, misunderstandings and challenges
in cooperation among the capstone project team
In literature, it has been identified that one of the
main challenges in capstone type of course
assessment has been the tendency to focus primarily
on written or product outcome (Todd et al., 1995;
Jawitz et al., 2002; Lawson et al. 2014). This same
challenge remains although it has been recognized
that the main assessment criteria should be focused
on skills developed during the project, such as
teamwork, communication, life-long learning, and
technical skills. Therefore, the final software coding
outcome should not determine the passing grade for
the course. Even if the coded software does not
work, the team can still pass the course if they have
achieved the planned learning targets. The capstone
course teachers can use a variety of tools and
practices to get insight into capstone teams
activities, such as self and peer-evaluation, process
and product assessments, formative and summative
assessments, and students’ course-diaries/blogs
(Mills, 2007; Bramhal et al., 2012); Gardner and
Willey, 2012, Lawson et al. 2014).
Capstone projects can also provide students a
valuable opportunity to be exposed to diversity
already during their studies when the students
operate in a multi-national and multi-cultural
situation. During the capstone project
implementation the team members have to take into
account member’s national culture impact upon the
whole team (Duran and Popescu, 2014). Morkos et
Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course
al. (2014) conducted a comparative study between
domestic and international students. They found that
quite often the domestic students took the leading
position, and the teams had to overcome the
frustrating situations caused by cultural and
language barriers by improving their communication
and interaction skills. Morkos et al. (2014) pointed
that the students may not immediately recognize the
lessons they learned from the multicultural situation.
The recognition of diversity related lessons happens
3.1 Software Engineering Capstone
Course – Targets and Preparations
The software engineering capstone course is a
mandatory course in the master level IT studies at
the University of Turku. To provide it as a
compulsory unit, timely linked to the degree
program, and including all the degree program
students, it has been organised formally as a
traditional course in the teaching program. The
course needs to have a clear structure, but at the
same time it is important that the teachers only
facilitate the students’ learning, and the implemented
activities are managed by the students themselves to
achieve the expected learning outcomes.
The courses take three academic periods, about
nine months, and the course is structured with
regular predefined classroom activities (e.g., status
reports, pitching, demonstrations). The focus of the
capstone course is on designing and implementing a
proof-of-concept level solution to a fairly complex
real-world problem via practical test and try
approach. The idea is to provide a situation that
simulates various aspects from working life
phenomena in a safe environment that also allows
failures. Sometimes learning from failures can be a
better learning experience than learning from
success. Based on our observation, teams that face
failures during their project often analyse, identify
root causes for their situation and actions, and they
even are able to take the needed corrective actions.
Analysing the causes behind failures during a
common class activity provides a viewpoint for
students in other teams of these critical project
Capstone project utilizes both PBL and POPBL
methods and some elements from Problem-Solving
Learning (PSL). As Sotto (2007) highlights, it is
better that the students are quickly able to practice
their knowledge and skills instead of spending
significant amount of time to understand the
problem. In this course, the intended learning
outcomes (ILOs) focus on team working,
communication and problem-solving skills. The
students practice those skills with preselected project
topics stretching out of their comfort zone. The
teachers spend a significant amount of time to
discuss with potential topic owners and prepare the
project topics beforehand. The main idea of the
capstone course is to provide open-ended problems
to students. The topic owners need to accept that
they cannot give exact solution requirements to be
implemented. Instead, they get a proposal for their
problem from the students, often in a form of a
working proof-of-concept.
3.1.1 Attendance
The practice is that students enrol to the course
beforehand. That way the teachers are able to
evaluate the students’ current level of studies. If the
student does not fulfil the requirements (i.e. being
master level students), the teachers can inform them
to attend the needed courses prior taking the
capstone project on coming semesters.
The full attendance is mandatory, but the demand
for 100% presence is adjusted, because students can
have situations when they cannot attend (e.g.
doctor’s appointments). During every lecture, the
attendance is recorded with signature on the student
list. That way the teachers can follow-up the
attendance (which is one aspect of course
evaluation) and also show that teachers care for
students’ presence. In case of a student missing
multiple compulsory sessions, the student needs to
agree on activities to compensate for their absence.
This kind of social contracts are linked with
professionalism (Vu, 2014) and applying those
between teachers and students is good practice for
working life. That way the students can practice the
impact (positive or negative) of unspoken norms and
One of the challenges in organising this course is
timing. Typically, the Fudan students spend one
academic semester, about six months in Finland.
Still, the course takes longer, about nine months.
This means that the teams built of students from
both universities need to find ways to continue and
finalize work even when located in two continents.
At the early stage of capstone course
implementation, it was found that the Fudan students
CSEDU 2018 - 10th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
considered their course related activities ended when
they returned back to China and then the Finnish
students alone had to finalize the project work.
However, during the past few iterations this scheme
of thinking has gradually been changed by planning
and placing common course activities to the final
stage of the project. Also holiday seasons of two
cultures impact on the course. For example, the
course that starts around January will be finalized
around October. This means a summer break in the
middle of the course in Finland, and Chinese
National Day break in early Fall.
3.1.2 Lectures
The main teaching approach during the capstone
project course is on active learning activities.
However, due to the high amount of students (35-50
students) some traditional type of lecturing is also
included to activate the students in the classroom to
further process the topic inside their project teams.
Every lecture focuses on a different topic related to
the common stage of the projects by providing a
short introduction to the students. The idea is to give
“mental hooks” for directing their focus on digesting
new topics and activities. The capstone course
lectures include two parts. One part focuses on
project management and communication specific
skills. The second part focuses on team work and
interaction skills. These lectures and hands-on
practices provide the basic knowledge for the
students to apply in their project team.
The course utilizes Moodle online tool to share
and communicate course related materials. The
materials are created by teachers, and there are no
specific textbooks to be used during the course. This
also encourages students to be active and write their
own notes. Earlier research has shown that when
students make their own notes, they internalize the
topic better (Mueller and Oppenheimer, 2014).
Earlier research indicate that slides can make
students passive listeners or they focus on other
activities (such as, Facebook, WhatsApp messaging,
etc.) as they do not bother to make their own notes.
During the series of lectures the students will
give several presentations, such as status reports,
project plans and project pitch. The students get
assignments during lectures to work independently
and then during the next lecture they present the
outcomes. Every lecture has a slightly different topic
or focus to keep students motivated to work around
the project with clear focus areas and deadlines.
Although, based on observations, it has been noticed
that many of the students are not motivated to listen
other teams’ presentations.
3.1.3 Student Groups and Selection of
Group Members
Based on experience gained from several capstone
course iterations, it has been found that team
dynamics can be a core element of success or a
serious hindering effect. Since student self-
motivation is expected to be one fundamental
element to successfully meet numerous project
challenges, students are asked to choose their
preferred topics with a motivation letter. At the
beginning of the capstone course, teachers will
present the project topics to the students. The
students can choose three most interesting topics
which they would like to participate in. Based on the
motivation letters the teachers will form the groups.
It can also mean that the students may not be
assigned with the topic they primarily preferred. The
teachers spend quite a lot of time to form the groups
by reviewing students’ prior courses and interests to
ensure diversity and the needed skills to succeed.
As the course participants consist of students
both from the University of Turku and the Fudan
University (China), the teachers ensure that every
team is multinational. That way it can also be
ensured that the teams practice their English
language skills during their project work. At the
same time, the students also learn to interact with
people from different cultures and with way-of-
working habits.
Since team working skills are in the core of
intended learning outcomes of the course, the team
size is normally aimed for minimum of four or five,
but can reach up to eight students. However, larger
team size can more easily include “free-riding” type
of behaviour. In a smaller team members tend to
take bigger responsibility for ensuring the overall
success and they also support each other around the
tasks and competences. In larger teams the division
of work and responsibilities requires more attention
from teachers.
Quite a lot of the students have working life
background or they are even already working in
industry. Having prior working life experience can
help to excel in capstone projects and reach even
more demanding goals, via deeper understanding of
what they need to do and what is required from
them. In other words, the students are able to fill the
knowledge gaps of teachers’ presentations with their
own practical experience knowledge.
Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course
3.2 Project Activities and Course
3.2.1 Topic Owner Interaction and Project
All of the project teams have an external project
topic owner, who is not a teacher on the course. The
students interact with the topic owner, often seen as
their customer, collect requirements and later present
their solution proposal. Ideally the topic owner is an
external/industry representative, but also some of the
research groups from the University of Turku have
been in this role. It is also to be noted that the teams
have a very small budget that can limit their
3.2.2 Project Implementation
The project team assigns different roles to its
members during the project activities. One of the
key roles is that team leader, who usually is also
responsible for customer communication. The idea is
to learn to manage communication between the team
and its project stakeholders.
Project planning is an important phase, because it
shows how well and to what depth students have
understood the problem and the requirements. The
idea is to revise the project plan several times during
the capstone course. The first plan is the first best
guess, but the main lesson is that the project plan
needs to be updated and re-estimated regularly. The
idea is also to practice how to divide a complex
tasks into smaller implementable entities. That way
the students also practice how to schedule activities
and what is the impact if they do not take the
responsibility or ownership of implementing the
tasks. Based on our observations we have identified
ownership of the activities to be the most relevant
success factor. If the students feel the ownership of
the project, they are also willing to invest time and
effort to the outcome and interaction.
The project teams also meet regularly with the
teachers to discuss the details of their project. These
sessions provide a tool for the teachers to assess the
dynamics of interaction in the team and their
potential need for support or advice to improve the
3.2.3 Course Assessment
From teachers’ perspective, assessing the student
and team performance can contain challenges. Due
to the nature of the initial open ended problems,
teachers cannot give grades only based on the level
of technical outcome. Sometimes the students are
not able to finalize their plans or they do not have a
tangible result to present as a final outcome. Still,
they may have achieved the intended learning
The course does not have any summative exam.
Instead, the teachers use different kinds of materials,
tools and practices to get insight into the students’
performance among their team members. One of the
main evaluation aspects include participation and
activeness, observations during the lectures and
individual group sessions. The main materials are:
project plans, status reports, pitching sessions. In
addition, students have to write a personal work
diary where they describe the amount of hours and
activities they have done for the project. The
students also answer to the course feedback survey
where they conduct self-assessment and peer-
3.3 Technologies and Tools Supporting
Learning Outcomes
As the teams are allowed and expected to organise
themselves, they also have freedom in choosing the
tools they use. Each team is required to keep a
project repository to store their digital outcomes, and
teachers are given access to it. Each team presents
their choice of tools in their presentations in order to
share experience and provide best practices within
the course.
Used tools include common file sharing tools,
such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc., task boards
like Trello, distributed version control systems like
Git. These tools are used regardless of the
technologies related to building the actual project
Technologies experimented in building the
project outcomes have included various sensor
technologies, app and web development frameworks
and flexible computing platforms specially designed
for learning purposes, such as Raspberry Pi.
4.1 Students’ Feedback Analysis
To evaluate how the course succeeds in guiding
students to the intended learning outcomes we
analysed the student feedback collected after the
capstone courses. The focus in this study was to
analyse if the students report development in skills
CSEDU 2018 - 10th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
related to the course intended learning outcomes.
The student feedback is collected by using online
survey tool after the course. At the beginning of the
capstone course, the assessment process including
self and peer-evaluations was introduced to the
students. After the course the students self-evaluated
their own participation and contribution to their
project. They also provide an evaluation for each of
their team members. These self-reflected evaluations
provide to teachers an insight into the team’s
operation and how the work load was balanced
among the team members.
The students identified technical skills as
essential to succeed in a capstone project. Three
examples from the student feedback: Technical
support is really necessary”, The biggest problem
was to do software project without actual
programmers and We are all expected to
understand and implement software programs. This
was a huge issue in my group”. Based on the
feedback material it was possible to identify that
technical aspects could be seen as potential
discipline knowledge gaps and were one of root
causes to teams’ challenges.
The students identified various technical topics
(Table 1) as development areas to better succeed in
capstone project activities. Also the students’ self-
evaluation of their prior technical skills indicated
that many students did not have the needed technical
skills to excel in their capstone project (Figure 1).
Table 1: Students’ self-identified areas for developing
their technical skills.
Algorithms and analytical skills:
- Algorithm and algorithm analysis
- Mathematical modeling
- Learning analytics
- Data-analytics
- C/C++
- Java courses
- Object-oriented programming courses
- Web programming
- Python programming
Networks and Databases:
- Network knowledge
- Database technologies
- Network and Operation systems
Other technical skills:
- Cloud computing
- Software and HTML design
- Graphical design
- Robotics
- Geographical information systems and developing
geo-informatics software
- IoT devices
- App development (Android or iOS)
- Version control
Figure 1: Sufficient technical skills to succeed in a
capstone project.
The new situation in which the students
independently managed their capstone project and
its activities caused question marks for some
students. In typical approach teachers give more
exact tasks and activities to be performed. However,
the capstone project learning target is to practice
team skills, take active responsibility on both
defining and implementing project tasks, and the
accountability remains on the student side.
Based on the feedback results some of the
students expected more strict supervision and
guidance from the teachers: I had a feeling
throughout the course that there should have been
more supervision that the team members were doing
their job”, I wish we can get more supervision in
the course, because our team was confused
sometimes”, and Provide more detailed directions
and motivating or pushing teams to start the project
activities”. Yet, some of the students recognized that
the supervision should come from inside the team,
such as to be conducted by the project manager/
leader: There should have been more supervision
that the team members were doing their job.
However I think this should be something that is the
responsibility of the project manager not the person
managing the course. Maybe this should be
emphasized more when talking about the role of the
project manager”. Some students also proposed to
have a teaching assistant who would focus on
supporting a specific team: I hope each project
team can have one assistant teacher who is familiar
with the project so that we can get the necessary
Also motivation and interaction aspects caused
some concerns. One of the key success factors to
succeed in capstone project is student’s own
motivation. If a student does not have the needed
motivation, it can affect the rest of the team. Few
examples from the student feedback: Kick out
Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course
unskilled and unmotivated students”, Capstone
required a lot of motivation and hard work. Students
of IT department are not usually very eager to make
suggestions nor working without someone pushing
them forward.” Some even proposed direct
approaches to deal with unmotivated or non-
participative team members who negatively
impacted on their team working: I can only come
up with two ways to improve motivation towards
team working: either punishing students for not
doing anything relevant or encouraging them to
improve their teamwork skills”.
The interaction and experience sharing with the
fellow capstone teams could provide opportunities to
learn and cooperate. Sharing situations and
challenges could provide a new kind of reflection
window to team working: I would have some
interaction session with other groups on how they
are managing the project, what difficulties they are
facing and what went so well, are we facing the
similar kind of situations? This way we could figure
out the common problems and complete the project
better. The communication between the different
capstone project teams was very little and limited to
the common all-class sessions. The interest to work
together with other teams was identified: I hope we
could have an open working atmosphere to
exchange ideas and solutions with other teams”.
Based on the student feedback, the majority of
the students reported skill improvements or they
learned new technical or project management skills
during their capstone project (Figure 2). As an
example, the students reported: I got valuable
information on project management and leadership
and got to practice my presentation skills”. It is the
first formal project course I have ever taken and
most of the skills needed are new for me. So I have
learned new things which makes me feel happy”.
Some students also identified that the capstone
project was an opportunity to practice the skills and
knowledge gained during the several years of
studies: “I believe the whole idea of a Capstone
project is to employ the skills and competences
learned in school and working life”. The students
identified team working skills as an outcome of the
capstone project: I liked the practical teamwork
approach for common problems that required
learning new skills and problem solving with
different types of people. An eye-opening
The capstone project also provided an
opportunity to learn new knowledge in another
subject and thereby expanding the students’ skills
and working life capabilities.
4.2 Analysis and Recommendations for
Further Course Development
Based on the student feedback, teachers’
observations and hands-on experience, the following
focus areas and recommendations for further
development were identified.
Clarify the goals of capstone project experience.
At the beginning of the capstone course, it is
important to highlight to the students the opportunity
to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in their
studies and extend their academic experience by
thinking critically and creatively during their
capstone project. The capstone project provides a
safe environment and an opportunity to demonstrate
their proficiency in various areas and thus can be
used as an asset on job markets.
Figure 2: Students’ self-evaluation of their skill development after the Capstone course.
CSEDU 2018 - 10th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Highlighting the importance of student
commitment to the project and the team. Students’
commitment has a key role in the success of a
capstone project. This course is quite unique in
making the students mainly responsible for their
activities, schedules, team work practices,
atmosphere, and deliverables. The teacher provides
support, but the students have to take the initiative to
raise the need for support and guidance. Still, some
students try to push the responsibility back on
teachers and stay passive waiting for more
instructions. During the recent iterations of the
capstone course the expectation for the students
active role has been discussed more both at all-class
sessions and when teacher meets individual teams.
More communication and educating the learning
method at the beginning of the course needs to be
More focus on technical studies. The students
need to gain the basic technical knowledge in their
pre-capstone studies. Capstone project provides a
tool for students to conduct self-evaluation of their
current professional skills. For the university the
success level of capstone project gives input for
planning how to teach these skills at right, early-
enough points in curriculum.
Interaction between the capstone teams. A more
low-profile interaction between teams could enable
sharing and reflecting team challenges without the
pressure of presenting the case to the entire class.
Topics and situations encountered in capstone
projects could be discussed in small groups being a
mixture of several capstone teams. The groups
would share a summary of their discussion and
reflected viewpoints.
Having assistant teachers and technical support.
Quite many of the students experienced challenges
with technical aspects during their project. Due to
budget limitations, various practical exercises on
earlier courses have been reduced (Majanoja et al.,
2017). In the project students may also operate with
technologies they are not familiar with and they
need more technical support. Therefore, it is
recommendable to have more resources for technical
support and course assistants to support the capstone
Expanding the course together with other
faculties. While the majority of the students on past
capstone project teams have been students of IT,
providing a viable solution to most project topics
could have benefitted from an interdisciplinary team.
Engaging other subjects and faculties on IT focused
projects could provide opportunities. To succeed, the
project topics should systematically be developed
together with other faculties. Linking IT and
business students is a realized approach (e.g.
Kruchten et al., 2011). In a multidisciplinary
university such as University of Turku, several
disciplines could ideally be involved.
The aim of a capstone project is to provide students
a safe environment to practice their current
knowledge and abilities, such as knowledge of
discipline or content area and diversity including
cultures, perspectives and belief systems. The target
of the capstone project is also to strengthen students’
ability to think critically, communicate efficiently
and use various technologies. In addition, the
capstone project provides a lesson about
commitment towards social responsibilities,
leadership, providing service to others, and how the
lack of commitment affects the whole project team.
This study set out with the aim of reflecting on
arrangements of capstone projects in University of
Turku, Department of Information Technology, and
to provide recommendations for developing the
course and supporting curriculum. To form our
recommendation the students feedback was
analysed and conclusion reflected against teachers’
Based on the analysis it was identified that
technical aspects cause significant challenges. Quite
many of the challenges culminate around the
students’ lack of programming skills and the
capstone course currently as such does not have the
resources to provide detailed technical guidance in
all team specific issues. Therefore, more focus
should be given on strengthening students’ technical
skills before joining the capstone course.
The results of this study also indicate students’
challenges to perceive their student-led role being in
charge of all of the activities instead of following the
traditional teacher-led approach. The change from
rather passive receiver to active doer can be
challenging. Students’ prior working life experience
has a positive effect on the whole team. Those teams
are found to achieve deeper understanding of what
they are required to do and more effectively fill the
knowledge gaps with their practical experience.
We acknowledge the limitations of this study as
the results come from only one university. At the
same time, however, the results are well aligned
with the existing capstone research and discourse.
Future research should investigate the impact of
students’ prior working life experience on
Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course
performance at the capstone project. Another
research topic would be to analyse the relevance of
the capstone project as a self-assessment tool for
students’ working life capabilities.
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Reflections on Teaching Software Engineering Capstone Course