eUreka: A Campus-Wide Project Work Management System to Support Constructivism, Reflection and Collaborative Learning

eUreka: A Campus-Wide Project Work Management System to Support Constructivism, Reflection and Collaborative Learning

Daniel T.H. Tan (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Adrian D.H. Lu (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Sheryl E. Wong (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-853-1.ch009

Abstract

Project work is an established learning activity for students. It is a learner effort-based endeavour towards the higher learning objectives or Bloom’s taxonomic outcomes of beyond application into analysis, evaluation and creation. Its many forms include the final year (or capstone) project, term or mini-projects, group project work, field trips and studies, etc. It can include and extends beyond problem-based learning. The nature of such project work might be investigative, analytical, case study, information gathering, research or development. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has explored an extension of eLearning from a means of knowledge transfer and delivery coupled with pedagogy to that of knowledge creation and discovery. Via eUreka, this web-based project work management system facilitates the constructivist learning approach of students to be more effectively managed, supervised and mentored. Web 2.0 tools such as weblogs facilitates opportunities to participate, deliberate, feedback, comment and collaborate in the process of learner-centric knowledge creation and discovery.
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Introduction

Project work is an endeavour towards a learning objective or outcome. It involves goal setting, planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation. Project work is anchored in the view that education is “….rooted in reality. Reality is in making things and doing things, and to do this, certain qualities of mind and character need cultivation” (Armstrong, 1950). Project work comprises learning activities that involve “an in-depth study of a particular topic, usually undertaken by a whole class….small groups….and occasionally by an individual” (Katz and Chard, 2000).

Project-based Learning (PjBL), thus, is an instructional strategy that organizes learning around project work. Students are usually organized into multiple project groups to solve, typically, real world complex tasks and challenging questions based on an authentic (and usually work-related) scenario. In working towards the solution or outcome of the task, the students need to apply their existing knowledge and thinking skills to make meaning of the issues at hand to construct new knowledge. Some benefits derived from project-based learning include increased motivation, development of problem-solving and higher order thinking skills (Thomas, 2000; Bransford, Brown, & Conking, 2000). In addition, the need to communicate, share, interact and work as a member of a team will provide students with the learning opportunities to inculcate life skills, negotiation skills, people skills, critical-thinking skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills.

Project-based Learning (PjBL)1 is a constructivist pedagogy to encourage deep learning by providing learning opportunities for students to adopt an inquiry based approach in dealing with issues and questions/problems presented in the project scope and expected outcome. This in turn, will prepare students to cope with real and relevant situations in their own lives. Students are required to be independent, and sometimes inter-dependent to be accountable for their contribution and effort in the project team. The students take ownership of the problem/task set in the project and learn to manage, set goals, and strive to meet project expectations. They can tap on either skill sets they already have, or struggle to develop them while doing the project.

As students strive to solve problems and discover the consequences of their actions - through reflecting on past and immediate experiences - they construct their own understanding. In this constructivist approach, learning is thus an active process that requires a change in the learner.

Making meaning of the context of learning content and the environment, and construction of shared knowledge through interdependent social participation are some areas of involvement for project-based learning.

In Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Project-Based Learning is a key pedagogical approach that is adopted by faculty members in the assessment of student capability, independence and ability to apply knowledge. NTU students are assessed not only on what they know of the subject matter through in-class tests, individual assignments and term examinations, but also their teamwork skills such as the ability to contribute productively to group projects and assignments. The objective of this approach is to equip students with the necessary life skills that will prepare them for the workforce.

In September 2004, eUreka, an online Project Work Management System (PWMS) was introduced to establish a web-based platform for the centralized management of Final Year Projects (FYPs). The FYP – similar to the capstone project - is a major formal assessment activity for graduating students in the University. The system is aptly named after Archimedes’ “I have found it!” to capture the students’ adventurous spirit and insight in the pursuit and discovery of new knowledge and passion for innovation.

Since its maiden launch in 2004, eUreka has been gradually adopted as a PWMS for other project-based activities such as the Industrial Attachment (IA) Program (student internship program), faculty post-graduate research projects and student study groups as well as planning of non-academic projects, such as activities by student clubs, seminars and conferences organized for the staff in the University.

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