June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Computing & Information Technology
26.20.1 - 26.20.13
A Cloud-based Tool for Assigning Students to ProjectsAs a part of the overall engineering curriculum, senior capstone projects provide the necessaryopportunity for engineering graduates to apply their technical skills towards solvingcontemporary, open-ended, and challenging engineering problems. At XX University, bothjuniors and seniors engage in such hands-on projects across the last four terms of theirengineering program. These projects are typically managed by faculty members pursuingscholarly interests or are industry-sponsored with faculty serving as advisors. Each term, studentsare free to select projects that interest them, potentially working on four different projects overtheir Junior and Senior years. To manage student assignments to specific projects, projects arepitched to the students at the beginning of each term. Based on the pitch and personal interest,students submit their project preferences. In the past, students submitted a one-page sheet listingtheir top project choices in their order of preference. With the recent growth in the number ofprojects and students, the student assignment has become increasingly challenging, especiallywhen considering varying project requirements and constraints. In the recent years, over 80projects have been presented to over 250 students – demanding a clear need for a softwaresolution to student assignment. In order to address the need for a more efficient and accurateapproach, a cloud-based platform was developed for managing projects and assigning students.This solution used Google Forms to generate a list of projects with details for students to reviewand accept student preferences. In turn, this data was used to generate project and studentobjects. Next, these objects were processed by an algorithm that assigned students to projectsusing multi-level criteria. Replacing the previously laborious exercise of assignment was acrucial component of this effort. The algorithm utilized the recently released Google-AppScript’s ability to generate and manipulate data objects while having full access to Google’svariety of cloud services. Furthermore, to create a robust platform for improved studentassignment, new project and student requirements that could not previously be accommodatedwere added. For the Fall 2014 term, the new automated approach was compared to the oldmanual sorting method by each of the four engineering departments. Beyond the obviousbenefits, further advantages of the automated assignment are documented here. This paperdescribes the automation approach in detail and provides insights for implementing such aplatform elsewhere. The approach used here is widely applicable considering the widespread useof Google Forms in academic settings. With the addition of scripting algorithm, severalfrequently used tasks can be automated with varying degrees of complexities. The effortdescribed here is a robust example of the utility that cloud-based services provide to theacademic profession.
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