Ebook: Multinational Undergraduate Team Work
Enhancing the performance of education systems and reinforcing the international attractiveness of Europe's higher education is one of the flagship initiatives of the Euro 2020 strategy. Multinational Undergraduate Team Work (MUTW) is a capstone project course unit focused on improving the employability of students, which is one of the main priorities of the European Higher Education Area for the decade of 2010 to 2020. The purpose of the MUTW project is to create an environment which encourages the development of students’ soft skills, such as teamwork and communication, in an international setting by means of an innovative instruction paradigm to improve such skills without expensive and extensive curricular changes. This book is drawn from the experiences of the first phase of the MUTW project during the last two years (September 2009 till October 2011). It consists of 10 chapters, covering areas such as motivation, state-of-the-art approaches, communication and negotiation, report writing and oral presentation, open source software, team communication, pilot experience and outcomes and challenges. Providing a comprehensive view of the MUTW paradigm and its surroundings, this book will be of great value to any institution wishing to set up a similar course unit, as well as being of interest to all those involved in multinational collaboration within the education field.
Youth on the move – enhancing the performance of education systems and reinforcing the international attractiveness of Europe's higher education – is one of the flagship initiatives of the Euro 2020 strategy addressing one of its main targets focused on raising the employment rate. The Multinational Undergraduate Team Work project (MUTW), focused on improving students' employability, one of the main priorities of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) for the current decade (2010 to 2020), matches these concerns. The MUTW paradigm creates a setting that is a unique cradle to forge students' soft skills, such as, team work and communication in an international setting.
The concept behind MUTW is focused on the design of innovative instruction paradigms that might improve students' soft skills without the need to incur in expensive and extensive curricula changes.
The plan to setup this concept was devised in two distinct and complementary phases. The Multilateral Erasmus project supporting MUTW, funded by the EU between September 2009 and December 2011, was just the required kick-off to bring this concept alive and constituted the first phase. The second phase, starting in September 2011, builds on top of the outcomes of the first phase. The ambitious goal of MUTW is not limited to the first phase described in this book. We are proceeding from the current standing point towards a dynamic target aiming to provide our undergraduate students with the most adequate tools to improve their employability.
MUTW is also the name of the capstone project course unit deployed during the multilateral Erasmus project with the same designation. During the first phase we have ran two editions of the MUTW course unit, involving 44 students from 11 institutions Europe-wide, 30 teachers, two educational psychologists, two external evaluators and many more staff. One of the most rewarding outcomes of these pilot editions was the comments from former MUTW students, one year after attending the course, when they were already working or doing their master course. Those comments showed us that it was worth it and gave us the strength to continue improving over previous results in a permanent search for better and better ways to teach our students.
This white book describes our experience with the first phase of the MUTW project for the last two and a half years. Its goal is to provide a comprehensive view on the MUTW paradigm and its surroundings to all institutions wishing to setup a MUTW-like course unit or to improve over it. The exploitation of the MUTW outcomes that have been achieved during the last years will certainly strengthen MUTW in itself.
In Chapter 1, Motivation, we present the main forces moving us towards MUTW general goals. Chapter 2, State of the art, reviews similar approaches in the field of project/internship instruction. The MUTW methodology together with a set of guidelines and a description of the main lessons we have learnt so far is provided in Chapter 3, Multinational Undergraduate Team Work. Chapters 4, Principles of Communication and Negotiation, 5, Principles of Report Writing and Oral Presentations, and 6, Principles of Open Source Software, address a couple of base competences that should be mastered by students. Chapter 7, Team communication, describes the technological framework required for students to communicate and manage their team during the semester, including groupware and other online tools. In Chapter 8, Pilot Experience, we give a comprehensive description of the students' project specification that we have used during the first two editions of MUTW. The main purpose of this chapter is to provide anyone interested in setting a MUTW-like course with a benchmark that might support in designing a new project specification. Chapter 9, Outcomes, challenges and benefits, focuses on quality issues and brings about the main pedagogical results that have been evaluated during the first phase of MUTW. Chapter 10, Students' breakdown, authored by the students, is, from our point of view, a fundamental part any book describing an instructional paradigm. This chapter brings us the feedback from our students, the main beneficiaries of MUTW. Finally, in Chapter 11, Concluding remarks, we resume our findings.
We hope you can enjoy the book and benefit from our previous experience.
MUTW is team work for team work. None of our achievements would have been possible without the support and hard work from all partners in the consortium, from all the staff in the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and from our external evaluators: Ahmet Egesoy, Alexandra Costa, Alexandra Madureira, Alexandra Trincão, Ana Barata, Ana Costa, António Castro, Arno Formella, Carla Carneiro, Christof Hille, Cristina Costa Lobo, David Olivieri, Davy the Winne, Dimiter Dimitrov, Dimitris Kalles, Edwin Gray, Geert De Lepeleer, George Papadourakis, Georgi Todorov, Gilles Gervais, Helgi Thorbergsson, Helmut Dispert, Hubert Roth, Joana Rocha, José Rodrigues, José Silva, Juan Carlos Moreno, Julieta Araújo, Kafai Cheng, Kristien Van Assche, Luk Schoofs, Margarita Todorova, Maria da Conceição Viterbo, Maria do Céu Taveira, Marina Duarte, Onder Gurcan, Óscar Andrade, Paula Escudeiro, Ricardo Almeida, Rosa Reis, Stephanie Sahm, Vladimir Jotov, Yana Topalova, YaseminTopaloglu.
Many thanks to our students that have truly committed to their assignments and to MUTW making ourselves feeling that, despite all the obstacles, in the end it was worth it: Aggeliki Katsiampouri, Andre Sondermann, Andreas Jacke, Arne Lipfert, Arne Reimer, Atanas Dimitrov, Colin McCormick, Daniel Lopes, Diego García Galego, Durmus Cetin Akman, Emre Kurt, Gert-Jan Muys, Göktug Keskin, Gudmundur Freyr Hallgrimsson, Gustavo Fernandes, Haukur Ingi Heidarsson, Huda Alarishi, Ina Ivanova, Jens Ficher, Juan Francisco Corral, Juan García Losada, Laura Ryan, Lennart Van Vaerenbergh, Maria Kougioumoutzi, Matthias Hoffmann, Mountrakis Stefanos, Nathan Van Assche, Nikola Ralev, Ozgu Celen, Pedro Ferreira, Pelin Alpagut, Plamen Asenov, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Sandra Alvarez, Sérgio Batista, Sinem Takmaz, Sophie Chapman, Stefan Todorov, Stephan Polet, Thordur Bjornsson, Vicktoria Antonova, Zvezdomir Tsvyatkov.
Many more people have contributed significantly to the results of MUTW, often anonymously, but always so selfless and altruistic. To all, once again, our thanks!
One more word to Eddie Gray for his inspiration that originated our moto: MUTW – Me and U Together Win!
Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Politécnico do Porto (ISEP/IPP), Porto, Portugal
MUTW is a project with multiple benefits. First of all, it is a small scale realization of the European ideals about connecting the higher education systems. Secondly it is a laboratory for perfecting the engineering education curricula. Thirdly it is a valuable active learning experience for the participating students. The project is also unique in its straightforward approach to the cross-cultural communication and collaboration problems that are inherent in distributed software development with an international team.
This chapter revises some projects and initiatives led by higher education institutions that, being aware of the challenging demands undergraduates have to face during and after their graduation, are willing to endow them with the appropriate tools and skills that will help students grow up to be skillful, responsible, and creative professionals. Although emphasis has been given to engineering related initiatives, some examples from other knowledge areas have also been considered.
We believe that a set of tools and curricular activities involving students from different countries, collaborating to complete projects that generate relevant outputs to the community, might improve both students' enthusiasm and their team work and communication skills. That is the mission of the Multinational Undergraduate Team Work project (MUTW). The MUTW methodology is devoted to create and manage future international teams of students who will collaborate in order to develop a solution for a given engineering problem. The methodology encompasses all the timeframe of an edition of MUTW, including preparation of the students' project and its deployment by the teams of students.
In this chapter we outline the fundamentals of communication and negotiation in a group of people. Being aware of these generic principals greatly contributes to improve the effectiveness and the outcome of the meetings that MUTW students will be engaged in.
This chapter revises some crucial aspects related to report writing and the preparation of oral presentations. These are some of the base competences that are required to succeed in MUTW-like courses.
The main characteristics of open source software and the main principles of writing open source projects are presented in this chapter. The list of open source software applications is also presented. The explanation of Concurrent Version System as a server free software revision control system in the field of software development is also presented. The seminars on Open Source and on CVS, are included in order students to test their knowledge in these fields.
During the Multinational Undergraduate Team Work (MUTW) project a combination of online tools were used. The purpose of this chapter is to review the means by which the project teams communicated with each other in the first and second years of the MUTW project and to make recommendations for future phases of the MUTW project. This chapter is split into two parts. The first part reviews the various means of team communication used in the first and second years of the MUTW project. The shortcomings and areas where improvements can be made are then analyzed and addressed in the second part.
One of the core aspects of a MUTW-like course unit is the students' project. To begin with, it should be some realistic product with a real interest to some group or community so that students feel they are really contributing with their work to some major goal. Additional care is required to assure that the system can be organized in a set of packages that are consistent with the workloads required from each of the team members. It should be taken into account that MUTW-like courses demand for a high effort on team management and this should also be accounted for when measuring workload. Another core issue is not to provide a full specification to students. The specification provided to students should have some unspecified issues to force and promote discussion and communication, thus contributing to the development of soft skills in students. In this chapter we present the main aspects related to the students' project that we have used in both editions of MUTW that ran during the pilot period, including a detailed description of the project specification that has been provided to students.
Soft skills are getting more and more valuable contributing to improve the employability of students. In the modern economy the need to work with people from different countries and cultures arises very frequently. In this scenario, team work and communication skills in an international environment become highly valuable assets. Nevertheless, despite their value, these skills are usually not trained in undergraduate degrees. MUTW courses fill in this gap without demanding for costly curricula changes. In this chapter we analyze the results from the first MUTW pilot edition. This edition of MUTW involved 21 final-year undergraduate students from 11 higher education institutions belonging to nine European countries. Students were organized in two teams, one with 9 and the other with 12 students, to develop their capstone project. The main outcomes confirm our hypothesis that MUTW improves team work and communication skills in an international setting. The main benefits of MUTW-like projects for the main stakeholders are discussed along with the challenges one is expected to face during such a course unit.
It is a general understanding that working within a team on our local university is sometimes difficult to manage; on a multicultural and distributed environment the same problem is undoubtedly much harder to solve. These added difficulties are the main engine placing MUTW students before challenges that they must face and solve in due time, thus contributing to improve their soft skills to an extent that is barely achieved by a local project course unit. This chapter gives a brief idea about what students think about the MUTW project and what they consider to have gained from it.
The original plan to setup a permanent MUTW course unit in partners' curricula was devised in two phases. The first phase, a pilot project running for two years, was funded by the EU under the frame of an Eramus Multilateral Curriculum Development project, with the goal of designing, testing and deploying the MUTW concept. In parallel the sustainability of MUTW beyond EU funds should also be assured. The outcomes achieved in this pilot phase laid the groundwork for the second phase that aims at offering a permanent MUTW course unit in partner institutions. In this chapter we review the main outcomes of the pilot phase that led the way to set this innovative paradigm in higher education.