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Re-imagining the Student Research Project

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Day Workshop, 14th November 2018
Computational Foundry, Swansea University


How do we radically re-imagine the undergraduate final year and masters dissertation projects in the face of a changing higher education landscape?

Student research projects are the capstone of most computer science undergraduate and masters programs. They demonstrate students' ability to apply knowledge in a real problem and act as a major marker for future employers and those wishing to pursue further studies such as PhDs. Furthermore, the student project is a key way in which fundamental academic research creates impact in education, the future workforce, and industry.

However, the traditional one-to-one model of project supervision is challenged in the face of changes of scale and types of delivery.
In the UK, Computer Science has seen the greatest growth in undergraduate numbers of any subject areas over recent years [*]. This growth is good news for the discipline, but creates challenges to our established ways of working. Furthermore, these year-on-year changes in the sector as a whole are magnified and made increasingly unstable by changes in fees and student number caps. Some computing departments have seen a doubling or trebling of student numbers, others have seen a drop. Of course where numbers have gone up they may also go down, so it is rare for Universities to approve staff increases to completely match increased student numbers.

Added to this, there are increased pressures for academics to demonstrate outputs against multiple targets: research, economic impact, public engagement; and undergraduate and masters programmes are often being redesigned to enable more flexible learning including degree apprenticeships, undergraduates who are holding down jobs as they study, and remote learning.

This workshop offered a forum to pool ideas and share experiences in the way we deal with projects. Some have already experimented with group supervision models, others have ideas to develop multi-year projects or to separate the project management side of the project from the detailed academic supervision of the problem area. It was also an opportunity to discuss political and contextual issues such as selling non-standard models to staff, how to retain employability benefits of the final project whist changing format, and dealing with BCS accreditation

It was an opportunity to be speculative, but also to explore practical solutions to immediate problems faced by many across the sector. Together we re-imagined the future of the student research project.

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Re-imagining the Student Research Project

  1. 1. Re-imagining the Student Research Project 14th November 2018 Computational Foundry Swansea University https://alandix.com/academic/conf/reimagining-student-research-2018/
  2. 2. the foundry building mission community
  3. 3. instability
  4. 4. UK HE context unregulated numbers some institutions student number crashes some CS depts. massive increase e.g. Swansea CS intake 100-> 200 -> 300 happily staff growth too  … but unstable – subject fashion, NSS swings
  5. 5. challenges staffing – overstretched or underutilized staff – temporary teaching contracts – redundancy dealing with (uncertain) scale – rethinking teaching methods – automation – peer learning
  6. 6. rethinking learning
  7. 7. changing methods individual teaching – fully flipped – new methods in class – flexible access not just tech for tech’s sake – understand pedagogy and costs
  8. 8. defy HE as a market philosophy share resources between institutions … maybe human as well as digital? sharing experiences collaborative educational research
  9. 9. stronger together
  10. 10. scale the hard nuts
  11. 11. assessment the elephant in the room
  12. 12. student research projects core part of most CS UG and Masters important for: pedagogy: knowledge integration research: training and impact industry: employment and economy
  13. 13. rethinking! can we satisfy old goals in new ways?
  14. 14. day plan … (rough) 10:00 brief introduction to the day 10:15 round the room quick who we are and interest (1 min!) 10:30 short talks 12:00 identify key themes / challenges 12:30 lunch 13:30 blue skies exercise (wake up after lunch!) 14:00 smaller group discussions and plenary feedback 15:30 final plenary, future challenges, potential follow-on 15:50 wrap up 16:00 close