Dr David Weir is a Principal Academic Staff Member at Ara Institute of Canterbury Ltd. with over 35 years’ experience in the tertiary education sector. He currently mainly teaches on software development courses in the BICT degree with a particular interest in project based courses and is the convenor for the work integrated capstone project course. He is an active cyclist who commutes to and from work by bike each day and in his spare time rides 9,000 – 10,000 km each year.
Work Integrated Learning (WIL) capstone projects can have a significant impact on stakeholders including students, the department, institution, industry, and discipline.
Capstone projects provide an avenue for students to enhance their learning experience, build confidence in their skills and abilities, and potential work opportunities.
For the institution and department, it reinforces the notion that academic activities relate meaningfully to the industry by bridging the gap, and project deliverables can further enrich the student’s grasp of the discipline.
For industry, capstone projects can be an extremely useful experience offering solutions in the real world and saving organisations money and resources.
Information technology (IT) students in the last semester of the Level 7 degree programme at Ara Institute of Canterbury consistently undertake a WIL capstone project requiring them to carry out a major piece of work together with full documentation of their experience and a panel presentation.
In this paper, we highlight the WIL Capstone model used by the Department of Business and Digital Technologies at Ara in which students apply a wide range of technical skills as well as enhance their soft skills through authentic learning problem-based projects.
It also reports on the observed benefits and challenges of WIL capstone projects from more than 20 years of experience at Ara.
The feedback from stakeholders strongly suggests that capstone projects boost students’ engagement, skills and knowledge, offer a competitive advantage in gaining employment with their project sponsors or other industry employers.
On the other hand, WIL capstone projects have been criticised for their tight assessment schedules and completion times.
Future work looks at how to address some of the challenges noted by stakeholders and make recommendations on how the WIL capstone current design can be adjusted to a changing world.