Scaffolding a Capstone

Many undergraduate and graduate programs require capstone projects. Projects like these are often essential tools for students to demonstrate they’ve met a program’s learning objectives. In some programs, the project is introduced, but students are left to schedule the work over the semester themselves, similar to dissertations. When instructors scaffold projects into smaller assignments or milestones, students can receive and implement instructor and peer feedback and submit a superior final project. Each milestone can demonstrate students are meeting specific learning objectives.

Scaffolding a capstone project over a semester involves breaking the project into manageable parts and setting achievable goals for each stage.

Here are suggested steps:

Define the Project Scope

Determine the capstone project’s final deliverable and the outcomes it meets. Provide students options, ideas, and examples from past projects to stimulate their thinking. Students can determine exactly what problem to solve. This planning provides a clear picture of the project and helps learners stay focused throughout the semester. Provide students with a project overview in the first week of the course so they can prepare, ask questions, and demonstrate they understand the assignments.

Create a Project Timeline

Once you have identified the phases and goals, create a project timeline with specific due dates for each phase. A timeline helps visualize the project timeline, deadlines, and milestones. For adult learners with multiple courses and responsibilities, the ability to plan their work for the semester can lead to success.

Complete a Team or Project Charter

If the project involves groups or teams, create a team or project charter document for students to share contact information, assess risks, and start planning who will complete each task and deadline. This document is a collaborative tool that helps students hold one another accountable.

Break the Project Into Milestones

Divide your project into smaller, manageable parts. Each milestone should have specific learning objectives and timelines to help students stay on track. Not every milestone requires the same amount of time. For example, an annotated bibliography is a one-week assignment. Preparing and presenting a group presentation may require two or more weeks.

Set Goals and Objectives for Each Milestone

Set specific objectives that align with the overall project and program learning objectives. These goals should be measurable and achievable within the given timeline. Align the milestone objectives to the overall project and to program outcomes. For example:

Allocate Resources

Determine the resources you and your students will need for each phase, such as tools, software, equipment, and people. Ensure all the necessary resources are clear at the beginning. If students need to purchase, download, or learn extra tools, they need to know upfront.

Evaluate and Revise

Provide students feedback on every phase of their projects and encourage them to make revisions.

Final Submissions

Encourage students to incorporate feedback and thoroughly edit and proofread their final submissions, as often this involves stitching together assignments.

Following these steps, you can scaffold your capstone project over a semester and complete it within the given timeline.

The Babb Group’s professional instructional design team understands the needs of faculty and institutions in meeting learning objectives and how to create engaging and career-focused capstone projects. Contact us today for how we can collaborate with your team to create your next online courses.

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Angela Britcher

Angela Britcher is an instructional designer and content creator with The Babb Group. She is also an adjunct professor of business and communications.
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