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UT Dallas: Group project required of all incoming freshmen beginning before first day of class

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UT Dallas has been on our short list for dd to apply to next year because of their great merit aid, despite a few "cons". This fall they are implementing a new requirement for all incoming students: a six-week group project in which they are assigned to a team of eight students from each of the university's eight schools.

 

They are to research an assigned issue, decide on roles for each team member, propose a solution, and then each individual has to submit a video pitch to a potential investor or review board. (The wording is unclear as to whether they actually have to send the video to an investor or only to the college.)

 

Some of the projects were given a start date of 2 1/2 weeks before the first day of classes.

 

At the end of the semester the students vote and the five best projects present their research in the spring.

 

The project will not be graded but is required for graduation. In fact, they have to do it again junior year to "apply the skills they have acquired while at UT Dallas."

 

http://www.utdallas.edu/core/faq/

 

What do you all think of this requirement?

 

 

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Yeah--some projects begin 2 1/2 weeks before class, some begin the first day of class, and some begin 2 1/2 weeks after the first day of class. I would hope that such students would be able to be assigned one of the later start dates.

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What an administrative nightmare.  In their junior year they will do the project to apply what they have learned.  So, what is the first project?  Just a large waste of time because they can't apply what they haven't learned yet?

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I have no idea if this is common or not, but I say YUCK. Double yuck if expected to start on the early date.

I'd find it very annoying to be expected to do a bunch of work for something that is "required", but essentially doesn't count for anything. What's the motivation to put your time into a bunch of research and group work if you have real classes and tests to study for?

 

 

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Oh. YUCK. 2½ weeks before my first daughter's freshman year, we were on VACATION - enjoying that last tiny bit of time before our family was forever changed. No way would we have welcomed some stupid freshman group project. Blech. Ugh. Puke. No.

 

As it is, group projects are such a PITA anyway - even when you live on campus with the other freshmen, it's been painful for dd to pin people down to meet up and work on group projects. Every single class she had last year had at least one group project - not a single one was truly worthwhile imo.

 

I can't imagine the wrangling it would have been to get that all together before even arriving ON campus - and right before freshman move in? No way, no how!

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UT Dallas has been on our short list for dd to apply to next year because of their great merit aid, despite a few "cons". This fall they are implementing a new requirement for all incoming students: a six-week group project in which they are assigned to a team of eight students from each of the university's eight schools.

 

They are to research an assigned issue, decide on roles for each team member, propose a solution, and then each individual has to submit a video pitch to a potential investor or review board. (The wording is unclear as to whether they actually have to send the video to an investor or only to the college.)

 

Some of the projects were given a start date of 2 1/2 weeks before the first day of classes.

 

At the end of the semester the students vote and the five best projects present their research in the spring.

 

The project will not be graded but is required for graduation. In fact, they have to do it again junior year to "apply the skills they have acquired while at UT Dallas."

 

http://www.utdallas.edu/core/faq/

 

What do you all think of this requirement?

 

I don't love group projects.  However they are rather ubiquitous, a friend of mine who is going through a hybrid masters degree program at Columbia University has quite a few, fairly in depth group projects that are a major part of the degree.

 

Some might not like the start date being before school begins, but since the first three weeks of the project are supposed to be online communications anyway, it's possible that some students would find the weeks before arriving a tad less busy than the weeks right after arrival.  

 

I have a former colleague who is at the school.  I'm not sure if he does much with undergrads, but I reached out to see if he has any more info on the goals of the project.

 

ETA: If I were picking between a mandated reading of a trendy but blah book with required group discussions and a project like this, I think I'd rather do the project.

Edited by Sebastian (a lady)
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ETA: If I were picking between a mandated reading of a trendy but blah book with required group discussions and a project like this, I think I'd rather do the project.

 

I hate group projects due to the dynamic of some people saying they will do their part & then they fail you at the last minute, so the ones who are left have to scramble. (I didn't run into this as much in the real world, but it happened for every group project at school.)

 

I'd rather read a horrible book & do group discussions.  

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I have a former colleague who is at the school.  I'm not sure if he does much with undergrads, but I reached out to see if he has any more info on the goals of the project.

 

Thanks, I'd be interested in his feedback.

 

So far Dd has done pretty well in group situations in her DE classes--she has had to take the initiative but has not yet had a group member who refused to do anything or was a troublemaker. To me, though, the UT Dallas assignment is different from a group project for a particular class. Something that is required of all incoming students but not graded seems to increase the likelihood of having people in one's group who won't be motivated to do their part.

 

As I mentioned above, there were already some negatives for this school for us, and my immediate reaction upon learning of this project was that it tipped the balance in the negative direction! But then I felt silly for thinking that Dd should give up a chance at some great merit aid on the basis of a group project, so I wanted to see what the Hive thought of it.

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It will be interesting to see if they are still doing this project (at least on this massive of a scale) next year.  This type of project would be difficult to pull off at a school with a traditional full-time, on campus student body. I think it will be much more difficult at UT Dallas.

 

I think there are a number of things about the project that are problematic.  From an academic standpoint, I do not like the fact that it is pigeon-holing students before they even start their freshmen year.  From their website:  "Your team will be interdisciplinary, so you will likely have a representative from each of the eight schools. The goal is to use each of your team member’s unique skill sets to complete the project."  Then it lists things such as "develop a budget" for business majors.  Just because someone has declared that they will be a business major does not mean that they have any special skills that a declared engineering major doesn't have.  They want to LEARN about developing a budget; they don't have that skill yet.  If they are supposed to "teach" themselves these sills, this is a massive project not to count for a grade.  Many students change majors, so this seems like a silly grouping.  

 

In addition, it is counter to what we are trying to do in many MBA programs now.  We have found that projects where each person "does his part" and then it is all stuck together have little educational value.  This project encourages this type of approach.

 

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DW and I attended UTD. I think neither of us would've been excited to do a group project like that. That said, I got a free ride + extra cash and some money towards on-campus housing (only $500/year for that one, iirc), without even having applied for a scholarship (we were floored when I got that), so, I would've sucked it up, I guess. We moved in about a month before classes started anyway, iirc, so that really wouldn't have been a concern (and yes, I would've much preferred to do it *before* the semester started than after). 

 

Now, I don't know that UTD was the right 'fit' for me in the end (I dropped out, but that was at least partially for reasons unrelated to UTD). I'd probably still apply and see what happens... how much aid she gets offered and find out more about these projects. 

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It will be interesting to see if they are still doing this project (at least on this massive of a scale) next year. This type of project would be difficult to pull off at a school with a traditional full-time, on campus student body. I think it will be much more difficult at UT Dallas.

 

I think there are a number of things about the project that are problematic. From an academic standpoint, I do not like the fact that it is pigeon-holing students before they even start their freshmen year. From their website: "Your team will be interdisciplinary, so you will likely have a representative from each of the eight schools. The goal is to use each of your team member’s unique skill sets to complete the project." Then it lists things such as "develop a budget" for business majors. Just because someone has declared that they will be a business major does not mean that they have any special skills that a declared engineering major doesn't have. They want to LEARN about developing a budget; they don't have that skill yet. If they are supposed to "teach" themselves these sills, this is a massive project not to count for a grade. Many students change majors, so this seems like a silly grouping.

 

In addition, it is counter to what we are trying to do in many MBA programs now. We have found that projects where each person "does his part" and then it is all stuck together have little educational value. This project encourages this type of approach.

That also caught my eye. In particular I thought that the roles envisioned for each type of student seemed very stereotypical.

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As I mentioned above, there were already some negatives for this school for us, and my immediate reaction upon learning of this project was that it tipped the balance in the negative direction! But then I felt silly for thinking that Dd should give up a chance at some great merit aid on the basis of a group project, so I wanted to see what the Hive thought of it.

 

As much as I don't like this requirement, I would not let it sway me too much. It's a project that might turn out fun or might be a pain, but like any school there will be some hoops you have to jump through (mostly for required classes). I would encourage my student not to let it take away from other things that are graded.

 

I'd still consider the school, especially if they are giving good money.

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I don't work and play well with others.

LOL, you and me both.

 

I had a group project in college one time. It was clear that the other three people intended to be deadwood, beached fish, and wilted spouts so I ended up doing the entire thing myself, presented the entire project myself, and got the A which of course they received too simply for having tagged along. But it was in my major, and I was not going to let my GPA tank due to their laziness, and the professor seriously did not care. His response was, "Well, consider good preparation for the work force. You'll have to deal with plenty of deadwood out there."

 

It should be noted that while I "play" well with others musically, this kind of group project nonsense in college made my blood boil.

 

So that's how it went.

 

GRRRR....

 

Now if either of my boys' school pulled something like this for next year, it would be a real problem because both are study abroad next summer. One will get back five days before classes begin, and one four days if the current schedule holds.

Edited by FaithManor
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I had a group project in college one time. It was clear that the other three people intended to be deadwood, beached fish, and wilted spouts so I ended up doing the entire thing myself, presented the entire project myself, and got the A which of course they received too simply for having tagged along. But it was in my major, and I was not going to let my GPA tank due to their laziness, and the professor seriously did not care. His response was, "Well, consider good preparation for the work force. You'll have to deal with plenty of deadwood out there."

 

 

I once had a group project in middle school history. I ended up doing most of the work (the others did *some*, but not much). The teacher found out somehow, and I got a grade about 2-3 points (on a 1-10 scale) higher than the others in my group. That really surprised me. I think that's happened a couple more times since then (in high school/college). 

 

ETA: I mean in cases where the stated policy was that everybody in the group would receive the same grade. Obviously, there are times when it's known you'll be graded individually in a group project, so then it's not a surprise. 

Edited by luuknam

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I once had a group project in middle school history. I ended up doing most of the work (the others did *some*, but not much). The teacher found out somehow, and I got a grade about 2-3 points (on a 1-10 scale) higher than the others in my group. That really surprised me. I think that's happened a couple more times since then (in high school/college). 

 

ETA: I mean in cases where the stated policy was that everybody in the group would receive the same grade. Obviously, there are times when it's known you'll be graded individually in a group project, so then it's not a surprise. 

 

I had one where I got the A, and my partner could only get a C no matter how he did on the presentation and paper. 

 

The night before presentation, I had turned over my (literally) bled-on the charted course of a planet to him. This was the "source document" for the entire project - it had required many hours of computer simulations. He was supposed to complete one little bit on the paper - literally half a page of a 10 page paper. He lost the chart! 

 

Fortunately, the professor accepted our presentation and paper minus the crucial piece of the evidence. 

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