Developing an online support tool to assist students in higher education with project proposals
Haji Suhaili, Wida Susanty
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The research presented in this thesis investigates ways to assist students with writing their project proposals. There is limited literature on the problems students have when writing project proposals in Higher Education. Particularly most of the literature has concentrated on the writing aspects, rhetorical aspects and structure of a scientific article. Even though various studies on assessment of undergraduate individual and group project works have been done, the project proposal has not been given much attention. Therefore assessment of the proposal stage of the undergraduate final year project becomes the focus of this study, conducted over three years. This three-phase study directly involved three main stakeholders (students, supervisors and coordinators) in the overall process. In Phase 1, the existence of the proposal problems was investigated and identified from the perceptions of the students and supervisors. Possible solutions to the proposal problems were identified. Next Phase 2, I acknowledged the requirements of the stakeholders, which provided the framework and initiated the design and development of an eGuide, a self-paced online guide. The implementation and evaluation of the eGuide were then conducted in this phase. Finally Phase 3, the study emphasised improvement to practice focusing on the Degree final year project by utilizing the cyclic approach of an action research. Questionnaires and focus groups were used to gather information from students and supervisors, both to identify the problems they perceived with the student project proposal process and the effectiveness of the online support tool, eGuide. In the development of the eGuide, it proved necessary to design and pilot a robust rubric for students and supervisors to structure the project proposal process. The eGuide was evaluated for its effectiveness by the various users and followed by an action research approach to make further improvements to the Degree final year project curriculum. The assessment criteria evolved further to become a marking template with a very effective feedback tool. The study has a stimulating effect on the practices of how supervision of project proposal was shaped and how the project proposal was being assessed. Practical outcome of the study ultimately benefits not only the students who were the focus in the first place but also the supervisors and the coordinators. The study provides further avenues for research opportunities in this area to take place in the future.