Capstone courses are important components of degree programs in higher education. They help undergraduate students during their final year to summarize and synthesize their college experiences in a manner that prepares them for the future. Over the decades, senior seminars have been applied in institutions in different forms, which are differentiated by the topics, objectives, and instructional strategies.
Personal Understanding of a Capstone
Prior to reading the article, my understating of a capstone was a paper that final students in higher institutions of learning are required to take, comprising of all academic materials covered for the whole degree program. I thought that its main objective was to test a student’s understanding and retention capacity of the information presented in various course units. In that regard, I viewed it as a paper that an institution requires students to write in order to assess their readiness for the job market. A degree program encompasses several courses that are studied over a course of several years, usually four for most programs. Since they cover different areas that are relevant to the completion of the degree program, then, remembering the content of each is important. I thought that a capstone includes questions from each of the course units in a degree program to evaluate a student’s level of comprehension and readiness for their application in real-life situations. After reading the article, I have realized that I was wrong, even though certain aspects of my understanding were correct.
What I have Learnt from the Article
I have gained several insights from the article that have changed my perception of senior seminars. First, I have learnt what a capstone is, and its purpose. A capstone is a culminating project that is undertaken by undergraduate students who are nearing graduation, and its objective is to give them a chance to summarize, appraise and assimilate their college experiences as they prepare for the labor market (Henscheid & Barnicoat, n.d.). Its main focus is the culmination of learning in the student’s major. Second, I have learnt that they are diverse, and can be grouped into five classes, namely discipline-and department-based courses, interdisciplinary courses, transition courses, career-planning courses, and others than address institutional goals (Henscheid & Barnicoat, n.d.). Third, I have learnt that a capstone is not a specifically-defined academic pursuit, and could vary from one institution to the other. For instance, one institution could model it after a career-planning course, while another could present it as a transition course. Regardless of its form, a senior seminar usually takes one academic term and the majority require students to undertake major projects or presentations.
Personal View of the Importance of a Capstone Course
I think that a capstone course is one of the most rewarding achievement of any student. It teaches them to think creatively and critically, and solve challenges that are common in the professional life. Moreover, I believe that it gives them an opportunity to develop their communication, research, public speaking, and data analysis skills that are vital in achieving success in one’s career. Other key skills that are acquired while undertaking a capstone course include teamwork, goal-setting, planning, and time management. I think that every student should take pleasure in undertaking a capstone course, because of its role as a bridge between the academic life and the career world. Moreover, it helps me them to synthesize and demonstrate what they have studied in their respective degree programs (Henscheid & Barnicoat, n.d.). One of the challenges that entrants into the career world face is how to put the knowledge and skills that they have attained in school into practice. Capstones are beneficial to students because they eradicate this challenge.
Two Facts Learnt from the Article
The first fact that I have learnt from the article is that capstones are not a contemporary concept as their history can be traced back to the end of the eighteenth century. They first emerged as tasks taken in courses that focused on the integration of religion and philosophy (Henscheid & Barnicoat, n.d.). For instance, a class taught by President Mark Hopkins at William College in Massachusetts, is among the earliest recorded cases of capstones in colleges. The second fact is that several research studies have been conducted to evaluate the objectives and approaches of senior seminars and capstone courses in America. They were done in the 1970s, the 1990s, and two in 2000. The studies had several findings: very few institutions sponsor senior seminars, they aim to develop key skills and prepare seniors for their careers, they usually involve single academic disciplines, and many exclude coursework and experiences gained prior to beginning an academic major (Henscheid & Barnicoat, n.d.). These are proof that capstones are an important component of higher education in the United States.
New Opinions after Reading the Article
I have formed new opinions from reading the article, and after being disabused of my previous understanding of the concept. First, the type of capstone that I think is the most beneficial to students who want to purse postgraduate degree programs is the discipline-and department-based courses. Their major goal is to summarize learning based on a student’s academic major. In many instances, these classes help students to make connections between the knowledge and skills gained in school and the professional world. Certain institutions offer these courses to serve as motivation to pursue postgraduate study. Second, capstones are more important to students than I thought they were before reading the article, and every institution should include them in its curriculum. Transition courses are a class of senior seminars and capstones offered by higher institutions of learning. Their major focus is the preparation of students for professional pursuits, graduate school, and life after graduation. Many students leave college clueless because of their lack of knowledge regarding the various options at their disposal. I think every institution should have a capstone project in its curriculum in order to prepare students for life after graduation.
Questions after Reading the Article
After reading the article, some questions emerged regarding capstones because they are an important component of higher education that should draw more attention from academicians. First, why have researches conducted only four studies on the goals and methods of senior seminars and capstone courses since the 1970s? Second, how has the development and presentation of the courses changed over the past three decades, owing to the emergence of the internet and other technological advancements?
Capstone courses are important aspects of higher education. They are presented in five different forms that serve varying functions. Since their development in the eighteenth century, senior seminars have evolved significantly, and they have appeared and disappeared in American higher education over the decades. In the future, the content and character of capstone courses will change due to the incorporation of instructional technologies.
Henscheid, J. M., & Barnicoat, L. R. (n.d.). Capstone courses in higher education, types of courses, the future. Web.