For the average computer science undergraduate, their impression of classes would mostly be of coding tutorials and debugging exercises. Learning business acumen is often left out, but the faculty at the Universitat Politècnica de València recognised that they needed to nurture a different kind of graduate in the 21st century: well-rounded individuals who are not only capable of coding solutions, but are able to align them to business strategies.
Before 2022, this business module for computer science undergraduates was taught through a lecture-tutorial system, and the teachers recognised its limitations of being fairly one-directional and theoretical.
In order to create a more engaging class and incorporate real-world experience into the classroom, the faculty decided to incorporate a new approach and connect more to the industry knowledge and experience. By collaborating with Aulascrum and Scrum Educational Experience they created an immersive 5-week programme based on SEE hack methodology and focusing on building entrepreneurial skills among the students.
One of the biggest successes for the faculty was achieving their objective in introducing business modeling to students. Every week, students underwent a two hour sprint according to the Scrum Educational Experience structure, which closely mirrors the process of building a business case in the real world. Within each sprint, students learnt about the stages and tools available in the first half, and in the second half they were tasked to apply them in their own projects. This almost immediate application of their newly acquired knowledge helped to show the tangible real-life application on the projects they were working on, and it highlighted the relevance of a business-centric way of thinking to the students.
Way of working
Some of the highlights of SEE for students related to their way of working, specifically on how the process introduced them to more effective and efficient ways of collaborating with others. For example, one of the primary tools that they found useful was Miro, an online collaborative whiteboard that allowed students to work on activities together in real time. Not only did they find it useful for doing work together online, they appreciated the fact that all their work was documented online and could refer back to it while doing retrospectives, or to apply it to a future project.
Another part of the SEE model that students found helpful was learning how to manage their work in a structured manner. As mentioned earlier, the programme was structured in agile sprints so that their learning and work were broken down into more manageable pieces. The students found this extremely helpful because they realised what seemed like a very daunting task at the beginning (i.e. building a business case) was accomplished easily and within record time (an accumulated total of 10 hours).
On top of the sprint structure, the students also appreciated the method of time-boxing within the sprints itself. Within each sprint, the program was scheduled quite strictly for each section so everything moved along at a fast pace. At the beginning of the programme, it was not an exaggeration to say that students were absolutely stunned at how fast everything went and they were pleading for more time. However, as the programme went on, students became more familiar with the way things worked, and they became more adept at organising their work time more efficiently. Through this experience, the students recognised the importance of quick-thinking, prioritisation and the habit of committing to decisions within tight deadlines.
Apart from the initial goal of introducing the module to the students, the facilitators observed noticeable improvements in their students’ interpersonal skills. As the teachers have personally noted, before the implementation of the SEE structure students were very competitive and it wasn’t the healthiest of environments for learning. However through the collaborative nature of the programme, the project work brought about a spirit of camaraderie amongst the students.
This collaborative spirit was crucial in boosting the students’ confidence in public speaking and presentation skills. For each sprint, time was dedicated for students to present their group’s work and also comment on their fellow peer’s work. As the presenting student was rotated within groups, every student had the chance to present their work in front of the class. This system helped to foster a safe space for students to present their ideas on a regular basis, and they got to learn from each other how they could present better through timely feedback. One anecdote the teachers mentioned was that students used to be very afraid of presenting at the start, and they were visibly quite anxious and self-conscious. Towards the end however, the students actually enjoyed the presentation time and were requesting for more opportunities to do so at the end of the programme.
Going forward – Future improvements and adaptation
Thanks to the highly positive response from both the students and teachers, the SEE model has gained traction within the University and plans are in place to implement a revised version in more classes in the upcoming academic year.
Based on additional feedback, the model will be adapted to be better tailored to the University. Firstly, the teachers recognised that students were slightly confused at the beginning as it was their first time encountering such an activity. Hence in order to reduce the initial friction and hesitance in order to improve the students’ confidence in participating, we decided to introduce a roadmap that will be shown at the beginning of the module as an overview of the process and to provide context for the sprint structure. This roadmap will also accompany the students throughout the process as a visual representation of their progress.
Another aspect that can potentially be improved upon is the adaptation of the sprint structure to the given timeline. The original SEE structure consists of 8 sprints, but in order to simplify the first attempt of implementing it, only 4 of those were used here. The lecturers felt that some sections of the hackathon required more time to be spent on, and found it regrettable that they could have expanded certain parts.
Luckily, the SEE model is highly flexible and it allows for additional sprints to be added onto the initial hackathon structure based on the needs of the facilitators and participants. Some of the initial suggestions were to have an additional session to facilitate problem solving, and two sessions dedicated to constructing the business model in order to dive deeper into the entrepreneurial content.