‘Flipped Model’ Classroom Allows Capstone Projects to Begin in Spring 2024

May 17, 2023

Starting in 2024, College of Engineering students will have the option to begin their Interdisciplinary Capstone projects in the spring semester.

Engineering 498, the required senior capstone course, is the foundation for each graduate’s year-long team project that is presented at Craig M. Berge Design Day. In the past, students have only been able to begin their capstone projects in fall, which doesn’t align with all students’ graduation schedules.

In some cases, students may only be short one or two classes that they need to complete by December for a winter graduation. Rather than having to wait until the next fall to register for the course, these students now have a more convenient option.

"It has been clear for some time that students get off the four-year graduation sequence that results in them not being ready to start ENGR 498 in the fall of their senior year," said Steve Larimore, the capstone program’s lead instructor. "We are always looking for ways to improve the capstone program and better prepare our students for their future careers."

The change will assist an estimated 10-15% of capstone students. Not only will the new option help them to graduate at their preferred time, it can also be a huge financial benefit as the students can graduate and enter the industry earlier.

The Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering already offered this option for their departmental capstone, but this was mostly used at the Yuma distance campus. According to Senior Academic Advisor Mildred Curran, more and more main campus students began expressing interest in graduating in December.

“Our department has a large number of sponsored international students as well as transfer students or students who switch engineering majors,” Curran said. “Our faculty noticed how large the student enrollment was getting the last few years and spoke with the college about offering ENGR 498 in the spring.”

Students will be prepared for this new schedule option thanks to a “flipped classroom” model, where students who take courses online can join Interdisciplinary Capstone teams. In fall 2023, ENGR 498 will change to this flipped model. In this, all of the lectures will be converted into videos that the students are expected to watch before attending class where that topic will be discussed.

When the students arrive in class, the professor will start by leading a short discussion on the topic, which allows the students to clarify points they may not have understood in the video. The remainder of the class time is used to work on the team's project.

“There are a lot of studies that show that this is a better way for students to learn the material,” Larimore said. “All of the instructors in ENGR 498 agree that the flipped classroom is an improvement.”

While the spring capstone class is expected to have a much smaller group of students than its fall counterpart, it should serve as a crucial resource for those students.

“We would like all students to stay on the four-year graduation track but realize that there are several circumstances that will cause 10-15% of students to not be on the four-year graduation track, and we want to support them in any way we can,” Larimore said.

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