Empowered Guinea Pigs: Stories of Cross-Disciplinary Projects in an Experimental Educational Software Design Course
This chapter tells the story of an educational software design course through reflections written by the instructor and student coauthors throughout the semester. The course design was inspired by the instructor’s experiences in a software design and development team. Driven by struggles in educational software’s rapid growth, the course focused on the design (i.e., learner analysis, prototyping, and testing) using a project-based pedagogy. With students from a wide variety of backgrounds, learning is focused on the educational software creation process in parallel with analyzing needs and designing software for real clients in multidisciplinary teams. To understand the experience of the course, the authors wrote and analyzed reflections about their experience in the course.
Narrative themes in the reflections revealed students’ and the instructor’s distinct but overlapping course goals. While the instructor’s goals focused on developing students’ knowledge and communication abilities surrounding educational software, students’ goals were broader and more idiosyncratic – experiencing the design process, linking knowledge to their prior experiences, and aiding their individual career goals. Students experienced significant, but realistic, challenges that stemmed from working on multidisciplinary teams and working on real projects with real clients. Happily, students recognized these challenges as realistic representations of project work and unique learning opportunities. In the end, students felt that they accomplished both the instructor’s objectives and their own personal goals. Although the students saw areas of opportunities for improvement, they were satisfied with their experience. The instructor was satisfied she had both met the course objectives and aided students’ personal growth.