Boosting advanced skills in project management thanks to complex human and technical situations

Abstract : Our graduate engineering school in Information and Communication Technology offers different academic programmes ranging from Masters of Engineering to PhD. One programme is dedicated to apprenticeships with around 40 students per year. Each student alternates equally between the school and a company over a three year period. The companies vary from small and medium size to large ones such as IT operators. All these companies require that the students are able to work in the complex and fast-changing environment of the digital industry. To this end, we have developed project based learning where students are placed in practical situations close to those they will experience in their future career. In particular, during a final-year project, we require that our students perform a technical and economic study involving constraints which can vary during the project. The students work in large teams (around 15 students) and improve skills such as agility, project management and team-working.These skills are relatively removed from standard academic and technical skills but they are essential for a career in engineering. As teachers, we provide tools to help organize, schedule and manage teamwork in a fast-changing environment. During the first two years, students have academic lectures on risk management, customer requirement analysis, schedule management and communication basics. Although the students spend many training periods in companies, they usually practice only basic project management. During their final year, we aim to boost their skills by introducing the complexity of the industrial world into academic activities. We stress team work, self-organization, conflict management and uncertainty. Even though, as teachers, we of course verify that they eventually master these topics to a high level, students must also perform a self-assessment and discuss this assessment with their teachers. Over the last 3 years, we have analysed the students' point of view on their skills improvement. This allows us, firstly, to adapt the course in order to continually improve student skills. However, we also have to make sure that the students are aware of their skills increase so that they apply this new knowledge with more confidence in the company environment. Our method is based on a quantitative analysis of the answers to a poll on the self-assessment of skills. The same poll was filled in by a hundred students over three years, before and after the complex project activity. We focused the analysis on three main issues: project management tools, team-working and agility. For each question, the students had to individually rate their capacity on a 5-level scale: from "No knowledge" to "Mastery of complex projects". We observe a strong increase in the self-assessed level in these skills. The "Mastery of complex project" which was claimed by only 20% of the students before the activity reaches 50 % after the project. The other students shifted from "No knowledge" to "Mastery of simple projects". Furthermore, agility is assessed as the most boosted skill. Why? Throughout the project, professors aim to put the students in situations which are different to those generally occurring in an academic environment. Moreover, students certainly have more difficulties to assess this skill when compared to the others. Indeed, the students have many written and factual feedbacks from the teachers all along the project so that they moderate their self-assessment about project management tools and team-working. To go further, we aim to involve the student's partner companies in the skill assessment of our students before and after their final project which concludes their apprenticeship. This will give us a more complete skill assessment from the three stakeholders of this programme: students, teachers and companies.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 6:20:32 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, December 19, 2019 - 1:23:26 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-01494159, version 1


Marie-Pierre Adam, Matthieu Arzel, Antoine Beugnard, Jean-Philippe Coupez, Myriam Le Goff-Pronost, et al.. Boosting advanced skills in project management thanks to complex human and technical situations. SEFI 2016 : European Society for Engineering Education annual conference, Sep 2016, Tampere, Finland. pp.1 - 11. ⟨hal-01494159⟩



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