Starting from September of 2018, South Ural State University has been fulfilling the project-based learning programme within the Master’s courses. The programme managers – Director of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Professor Elena Ponomareva and Dean of the Faculty of Energy and Power Engineering, Candidate of Sciences (Engineering), Associate Professor Aleksandr Shishkov – share on the results of the first year of the project-based activity at SUSU.
– What, do you think, is the main result of the first year of project-based learning at SUSU?
E.P.: I believe that the main result is that a “smart” system has been created at SUSU, which was based on the university’s development strategy, as well as the team-work principles. That’s exactly why almost all the projects were created as based on digital technologies, and 90% of the projects are interdisciplinary. Each project oriented at humanities, natural sciences or engineering fields of knowledge is either created with consideration to intensive use of digital technologies, or is wholly designated for the creation of a complex digital model as a segment of digital economy and as an end product presented for a customer. The tasks, which are being solved by the project teams, are based on the achievements in the world science and scientific schools of SUSU. A number of projects is being fulfilled in partnership with major foreign associations and universities. These projects allow to solve many tasks set forth before the economy, social sphere, and cultural space of the Big Ural. All 32 projects, which were launched by us last year, are being successfully fulfilled. Two short-term projects have been successfully completed in 2019, and the remaining ones will be continued in the next academic year.
– Why is project-based learning at SUSU is unique?
E.P.: The main advantage of the project-based learning at SUSU is that it was initially thought up and fulfilled as a system. The system approach implies smooth work of a project team, and sharing of the ideology of the chosen model by all the project supervisors, a clear dynamic model based on the best practices and methodology. The project’s preparation was held for more than a year at Management School at Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), in the process of monitoring the experience of foreign and Russian educational institutions. Our university has unique possibilities with this regard: we have the resources, which allow to ensure the process of project management taking into account modern world practices. We not just actively involve students into project activity, but we teach the project supervisors to properly manage their teams on the path to achieving the planned results. The SUSU School of Economics and Management held courses on project management for the project team supervisors. Moreover, such courses were taught to students as an elective discipline, if their curriculum did not include such a subject. Such organization of project activity is part of the general system solution under the project-based learning programme.
– Please, tell us about the partners of the projects being fulfilled at our university?
A.Sh.: An external customer is an obligatory condition of fulfilling educational projects. Among our customers are not only industrial partners, but also ministries and administrative entities, and various public organisations. We’re already receiving requests from individuals and heads of businesses for the next academic year. The number of the customers, who initiate their own projects, has grown. For instance, one of this year’s projects, which will be fulfilled by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, is a project created at the initiative by ChelPipe. Active promotion of the project activity allows to attract external partners: we’re actively updating the materials on the SUSU’s web-site page devoted to project-based learning. And in the second semester another resource was launched, which is also important in terms of information – Digital Cloud of Projects. The cloud is a digital model of the system of project-based learning at SUSU, which reflects the process of project-based learning in real-time mode. It holds data on both the customer and the executors of the project; and the completed, current and promising projects are indicated. Also, the cloud features a “notice-board”, that is, requests for vacancies.
– Which projects stand out?
A.Sh.: All of the projects being fulfilled by the students are unique. For instance, students of the Institute of Engineering and Technology are participating in designing an electric race car with a unique electric drive. The race car will be presented at Formula Student – engineering competitions among university students from around the world; students from the Institute of Architecture and Construction are working on creating a program of complex development of public utility infrastructure. A whole number of projects is oriented at solving problems of the finance-and-economy, social-and-cultural sphere, information environment, tourism sector, and so on. Several teams demonstrated their projects at regional and Russian contests and became winners. Every project that is being fulfilled is important. All of them passed the preliminary contest selection, and are in the process of fulfilment are showing that they are consistent and promising. That is why the majority of the projects is growing bigger and will be fulfilled as continuing new projects, which will start in 2019.
– In what way the knowledge and skills obtained while fulfilling the projects will come in handy in the future?
E.P.: It’s very important that it will be possible to replicate those products, which will be obtained in the course of work on the educational projects. On the one hand, the project team members can fulfil such projects on their own beyond our university (for instance, a digital model of an enterprise or a facility). On the other hand, we can launch right here at our university typical projects, which are built like puzzles: digital history of a certain region, apartment museum, information portal, smart house, smart transport – all of that are undoubtedly the realities of tomorrow in the economy and social life. And our alumni are ready to solve these tasks, and achieve efficient results working on certain real products in the team of like-minded professionals.
The results of the first year of fulfilling the project-based learning programme will be discussed at a reporting conference to be held in Sigma academic building of South Ural State University on May 28th. We invite all those interested to learn more about the practices of the best project teams.