Title POOL - Project Organisation OnLine as a model for equipping engineering students with team-working and communicative competencies in a multinational setting using ICT
Project Number A/04/B/F/PP-158.128
Project Type Pilot Project, project with multiplying effect (2000-2006)
Marketing Text The centrepiece of the proposed POOL project is a transnational student project in the field of telecommunications engineering carried out by students under industry conditions.
Poject-based training in university-level education has become a vital factor in preparing students for the demands of the labour market. It is also commonly agreed by personnel managers and recruiting agencies that team-working and problem-solving skills as well as communicative competence vitally contribute to the employability of university graduates. While most educational institutions would subscribe to these tenets, curricula, however, often do not reflect these developments. This is especially evident in the engineering sector. Whereas a sound theoretical basis in the knowledge domain constitutes a sinequanon in the curriculum of technical studies, project-oriented skills have only recently made it to the forefront of attention and are not yet well integrated. Looking at this issue from a transnational angle and adding a virtual dimension, further aggravates the disparity between core technical subjects and soft skills training. Additionally, academic traditions within the European Union have put a widely differing focus on the integration of theory and practice, of applied and work-oriented objectives into their curricula. Individual aspects may well have been given attention but it is their integration and well-defined interrelation that will truly reflect today’s industry practices. This raises relevant questions that need to be addressed if students should be adequately prepared to meet the challenges in their future workplaces, where international collaboration in a distributed setting has become the norm.
The POOL project undertakes to address these questions in a European context and provide a model for integrating distributed project management training into engineering curricula. What aspects need to be considered when preparing students to work in multinational teams? What European consensus can be achieved across national borders with respect to project organisation, documentation and quality control? What areas provide difficulties and why? What industry and real working life demands can be reflected in project training to ideally prepare students for the labour market? What specific aspects have to be taken into account and what pitfalls have to be avoided, if projects are partly carried out online?
The centrepiece of the proposed POOL project is a transnational student project in the field of telecommunications engineering carried out by students under industry conditions. (see POOL graphics 1 and 2 below) The unique approach trialled in this project is the combination of a real-life university-industry project in combination with the critical reflection and evaluation of the curriculum via the individual work packages accompanying this project. Theory and industry practice are thus synergetically utilised to achieve the most efficient and effective form of training for the engineering students. The student project serves as the touchstone for all questions to be addressed and considered. All communication as well as documentation is carried out in a virtual learning environment (VLE), in this case WebCT. This VLE has already been used for virtual learning and community building by the coordinating organisation FHS and other consortium members. Using this platform with clearly defined interfaces should ensure ongoing collaboration, transparent documentation of work progress and, thus, guarantee smooth project handling. Furthermore, VLE usage in itself will enhance awareness of the sensitive issues involved in online project collaboration. Again it is the interrelationship between theoretical reflection and the simulation of industry practice that provides the innovative approach here.
The POOL project intends to achieve two major outcomes: First, innovative curriculum design aimed eventually at the main beneficiaries, the students. The work packages centred around and prototypically implemented in the student-industry project will result in independent modules each addressing specific aspects of online project management such as quality assurance, intercultural communication, presentation skills, virtual group collaboration, standardisation of project documentation. Together these will form a model curriculum for online project management training for engineering students. Owing to the modular structure, the resulting curriculum will allow enough flexibility for its concrete implementation in a wide range of higher educational institutions. Second, the experiences made in the course of this project feed directly into the online handbook. This will serve as a guideline and reference source for curriculum designers at higher educational institutions as well as in companies and will support the implementation of transnational online project management (training). The close cooperation of educational institutions and industry partners in the needs analysis and final evaluation phases will secure the work and practice-orientation.
The set-up of the project consortium including seven universities, two SMEs, and a regional Chamber of Commerce from seven countries will guarantee a valid academic and practice-oriented input so that the resulting curriculum will be beneficial for students as more highly qualified future employees thus increasing the competence and competitiveness of companies operating in transnational and distributed project settings. The number and diversity of partners will give a good cross-section of project management experience and project management training throughout Europe. While the project is carried out within an engineering context, the results will by no means be limited to this field. On the contrary, it is assumed that the basic conclusions arrived at, will be transferable to any online project management training across all sectors. The results of the project will be integrated into the participating institutions as well as disseminated, for example, via the project web-page, presentations at relevant conferences, or training sessions with local companies.
Open and distance learning
Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities
Information and Communication
“Virtual Collaboration for online Project Management”
Curriculum Model for a master degree program "Virtual Projectmanagement".