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The Impact Of Group Size And Course Length In A Capstone Design Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Partnerships in IE Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1146.1 - 8.1146.7



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Paper Authors

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Susan Griffin

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Paul Griffin

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Donna Llewellyn

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Impact of Group Size and Course Length on a Capstone Design Course Paul M. Griffin¹, Susan O. Griffin and Donna C. Llewellyn²

¹School of Industrial and Systems Engineering ²Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 30332

January 15, 2003


In the spring semester of 2003, the School of Industrial Engineering at Georgia Tech ran an experimental one-semester version of their capstone course, Senior Design. The standard version is two semesters in the length, and the purpose of the experiment was to compare the marginal benefit of the second semester for the student (and project sponsor) to the cost of running the second semester in terms of faculty and sponsor resources. In addition, a survey was conducted on past students and sponsors of senior design to determine the impact of group size (which ranged from 5 to 12 over the study period) on the student and quality of output.

1. Introduction

For several years, the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech (ISyE) offered a two-quarter sequence in Senior Design. In the fall of 1999, Georgia Tech underwent semester conversion. It was decided during the curriculum redesign process that Senior Design should be converted to a two-semester sequence. Since that time, there has been much discussion about the appropriateness of a two-semester versus a one-semester version.

Critics of the current two-semester version of Senior Design have stated: i) the project length is too long and therefore not realistic, ii) it takes too many faculty resources, iii) group sizes have become too large, and iv) many potential project sponsors are unwilling to make a nine-month commitment. Proponents of the current version, on the other hand, argue that: i) it allows for sufficient time to do serious work, ii) it gives students more opportunities to develop the stated learning objectives such as communications skills, and iii) potential project sponsors prefer the two-semester version. The arguments for and against the current version, however, are largely anecdotal.

In the spring of 2003, an experimental one-semester version of the design course was offered (along with the standard two-semester offering), and the outputs compared to the two-semester version. The comparison included student surveys, sponsor surveys, faculty surveys, salaries, and double-blind grading of the final project reports. In addition,

Griffin, S., & Griffin, P., & Llewellyn, D. (2003, June), The Impact Of Group Size And Course Length In A Capstone Design Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12347

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