Building Capstone Groups

We have developed a simple command-line program for Capstone Design courses which can automatically make the project groups. The script tries to assign everyone to their first choice project, then iterates until everyone has been assigned a project. This is a max flow algorithm problem that the script enacts by brute force, randomization, and repetition.

The program uses two Excel spreadsheets to generate the groups. The first spreadsheet contains all the projects and the relevant information about them (project number, minimum size, maximum size, title, description). This spreadsheet must be manually created. The second spreadsheet is the output of a Connect survey which obtains the students’ project preferences. The program can extract the data from these two spreadsheets and generate two more Excel spreadsheets – one for general viewing and the other for uploading the groups to Connect. A more thorough description and instructions can be found in the documentation below.
Documentation: CIS Capstone Project Group Maker Documentation

Contact us and we can help you use this script. This script has been used in the ECE capstone course.

The general advice is teams should ALWAYS be formed by the instructor -BUT -This need to be tempered in capstone courses where student interest in the project is paramount.

Sometimes, when students select a team full of friends they can be unwittingly creating the conditions for lower team performance.

The literature shows that in the long term, criterion formed teams outperform student selected teams.

Typical when you create teams in other circumstances, you need to think about the student assets that you want to spread across all teams. Maybe each team should have someone with work experience, or someone who has lived overseas, or someone who speaks a second language. You need to think about who your students are and what each team will need to have to be successful. Information on the logistics of forming teams in small classes can be found here. Information on the logistics of forming teams in large classes can be found here.

Brickell, J.L., Porter, D.B., Reynolds, M.F., Cosgrove, R.D., (1994) Assigning Students to Groups for Engineering Design Projects: A Comparison of Five Methods. Journal of Engineering Education, 7:259-262

Other Support for Capstone Courses

We need some team tools to support capstone courses as well as Master Program cohorts. We will have something in place - mid-summer 2020. The University is currently reviewing Slack and MS Teams to support ongoing student collaboration - Stay Tuned for Updates

You can use Peer Evaluation to give students opportunities to provide fedback to their teammates on their contributions to the team project and team success.

Typically peer evaluation is used early in teams development to foster and celebrate good teaming behaviours and give frank and honest feedback on poor team behaviours. Often the first peer evaluation is for feedback only and does not contribute to the final grade (except perhaps small grade for completion). At end of the project, peer evaluation results are used to temper individual grades to be better reflective of individual contribution to the teams success. We want people to be fairly rewarded and penalized for their contribution or lack of contribution to team success.

We developed an online system know as iPeer that lets you deliver peer evaluations to your students and easily aggregate the results. This software system plugs into Canvas. We can help you both design the peer evaluation process and set up the iPeer system in your Canvas course.