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Welcome to the first of two culminating courses to support you in the development of a Capstone Project in the Masters in Infrastructure Planning and Management Program. The project is as the title suggests—a project that rests atop a body of knowledge accumulated through your exposure to the curriculum of our Master’s program.
In these two courses, you will select one topic for your Capstone Project, develop a research design—formally known as a “prospectus”—conduct research, analyze the results, and complete a research paper designed to demonstrate the combination of skills and knowledge you have accrued in this program. The first of the two courses, Capstone A, gives you access to the instructors, the literature, and the data to support your selection of a topic and development of a research design. In this quarter, you will also begin conducting the research. In other words, you will begin the process of carrying out the research you have designed, by conducting a literature review, identifying the primary data you will need to collect, and making initial contact to establish access to the data of interest.
By the end of this course, students will be able to
The Online Environment
Your online course offers several advantages to the traditional classroom, including the comprehensive Online Student Handbook, the ability to communicate electronically with student peers and with your instructors, and links to a rich array of UW Library Services.
Online Student Handbook
This handbook answers questions about your online learning course, such as how to purchase your text, obtain a transcript, and get technical help if you need it. The handbook also provides additional resources, such as how to order books or journals from the library and how to study for an online course.
Communicating with Your Instructors and Student Peers
Online Discussion Forums allow you to communicate with other currently enrolled students and with your instructors. We encourage you to use the discussion forums to exchange ideas, resources, and comments about your coursework with other students in this course. These forums are monitored by your instructor.
You can use e-mail to ask the instructors questions. If a question is of a general nature, considering posting it on the General Discussion Forum instead, so that other students in the class might benefit from the answer. The instructors will reply to all discussion forum questions on the forum, and to e-mail questions via e-mail.
UW Library Services
s an online student, you have access to a wealth of Web resources compiled to provide fast, easy access to information that supports your online learning experience. Organized by subject, UW Library Services links you to sites with help for writing and research, study skills, and library reference materials. All links have been assessed for credibility and reliability, and they are regularly monitored to ensure their usability.
About this Course
The prerequisites for this course include the Core and Methods series of courses, plus a minimum of three of the six offered courses in infrastructure systems in the Masters of Infrastructure Planning and Management.
The required texts for this course are:
Required articles will be available as links, on the course website, or accessible through the University of Washington Library online databases.
This course is organized into 10 lessons, with discussion sessions that occur over the last four days of the week. You are encouraged and at times required to comment on the work of your peers. However, there are no group projects in this course. The lectures and written materials provide support to written assignments by characterizing a diverse set of options and tools for identifying problems in context, designing research, and reviewing existing literature for the wide range of topics applicable to the Master’s program.
About the Lessons
Week 1: What Is a Capstone?
The notion of a Capstone Project—as a problem in search of a solution—is introduced and explored in lecture. Alternative structures for Capstones are introduced, such as story problems, troubleshooting, system analysis, policy analysis, and case studies. The two-quarter schedule for developing the Capstone is explained. Discussion reviews the cumulative content of the MIPM curriculum.
Week 2: Developing Capstones through Stories and Case Studies
This lesson hones in on story problems, system analysis, and case studies as meaningful methods for developing Capstone Projects on problems of infrastructure planning and management. Policy analyses are given a brief review, in the context of these three means for structuring Capstone research. Discussion narrows to examples of problems in infrastructure, keyed to elements of the MIPM curriculum, matched with one of the three means for structuring Capstone Projects.
Week 3: Capstone Topic Selection
Students propose topics of research for their Capstone Project. Upon approval by the instructor, each Capstone topic is posted for discussion. Readings cover tools for representing problems and developing case studies. Topics posted by each student will be designed to take advantage of the tools and introductory lessons of the readings.
Week 4: Ongoing Problem Solving as Part of Infrastructure Planning
Lecture and readings explain the relationship between material presented for the purpose of transferring knowledge (teaching), problem-solving as an ongoing demand of infrastructure planning and management, and the need to persuade communities of experts concerning both problem and solution in order to be effective in the governance of infrastructure assets. In discussion, students identify the communities of interest and disciplenary perspectives relevant to their proposed topic.
Week 5: Research Design
Lecture builds on the readings of lesson 4 to explain the relationship between theory and research design, exploring common quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research designs. Readings focus in on the case method of teaching and learning as all cases, no matter how quantitative, require exposition of the context or situation in order to interpret the problem and assess the validity of the proposed solution. In discussion, students develop one or more research design schemas, exploring their interest and the plausibility of each for their Capstone Project.
Week 6: Draft Capstone Prospectus
Students submit draft prospectus for Capstone Project research. Readings offer tips to enhance the prospectus. Lecture knits together the value of these tips in the context of infrastructure planning and management. In discussion, students comment on their peer’s proposed research designs.
Week 7: Learning and Learning Environments
Readings explore the science of learning and the design of learning environments. Lecture examines the Capstone Project as the formation of a learning environment for an intended audience, as well as the creation of learning environments in the ongoing context of infrastructure planning and management. Discussions will include different learning environments and how to design and build them.
Week 8: Rubrics in Evaluation
Readings introduce rubrics for evaluating problem-based studies. Lecture introduces rubrics to be used to evaluate Capstone Projects. In discussion, students develop rubrics specific to their research designs as a means for self-evaluation.
Week 9: Literature Review
Students submit annotated bibliography with a draft literature review for the Capstone Project. In discussion, students post their annotated bibliography and share tips for conducting research with the tools available within and outside the University of Washington library system.
Week 10: Final Prospectus
Final prospectus is due. Students post plans for collecting data and contacting organizations prior to the next phase of Capstone Project development.
In each of the week’s lesson, lecture consists of text plus brief, instructor-created videos.
About the Assignments
There are two types of assignments in this course:
You will submit four written products: Topic, Draft Prospectus, Final Prospectus, and Literature. Your product will either be a problem-based case, a table top exercise, or a research report.
The topic description will be limited to 1500 words, with an additional short annotated bibliography, including a minimum of 10 peer-reviewed citations.
Draft and Final Prospectus
A prospectus is a research proposal. It is written in order to obtain approval to carry out the research project—for our purposes, a Capstone Project. Once approved, the prospectus becomes a form of contract between you and the faculty members advising you in your research. Besides providing a scope of work and plan for carrying out the work, it assists you and your faculty members in determining when you have completed the project. The audience for your prospectus consists of the instructors of Capstone courses A and B, and any additional members of the MIPM faculty enlisted to serve in an advisory capacity for your Capstone Project.
The draft will be submitted to course instructors and other faculty instructors for their review and comment as well as grading. Comments will be incorporated into the final. Word count—not including bibliography—is 4000–5000 words.
The literature review is intended to be the first draft of the first two chapters of your Capstone report. It combines the description of your topic and problem, as developed in your Topic and Prospectus assignments, with a chapter-length treatment of the literature from your annotated bibliography (also part of your prospectus). While the prospectus contains a review of the literature, it’s purpose is more succinct, in that your goal in the prospectus is to persuade your faculty that the research you plan is original and worth pursuing. The literature review, as a separate and final assignment for the Capstone A course, is written for a different audience, to include any and all individuals or organizations that may take an interest in you or your area of research. It is the first of several products that will comprise your Capstone.
Word count is 2000–4000 words.
You are required to post to each of the ten discussion forums in this course. The week's topic will be released during the week in which the forums are held, and the forums will close as each week concludes. You will be required to make a one-page (150-200 word count), substantive post responding to the topic question. Before posting, read the postings of your classmates. You are also encouraged, but not required, to respond to your classmates by
Postings will be graded on content pertaining to the readings and materials provided in the lessons of each week, but also the cumulative knowledge you have acquired in the MIPM. The aim of these discussion forums is to facilitate collegial interaction among course participants, to encourage students to support each other in their understanding of the concepts presented in this class and their applicability, and to provide feedback to the instructor on how well students are learning the course content.
Grading and Assessments
Grading will be based on content, organization, and measures of style appropriate to writing at the graduate level. Style refers to your method of citing sources, grammar, punctuation, and related issues. I urge you all to refer to the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, University of Chicago Press) as you compose and edit your work.
Graded activities are weighted as shown in the following table:
You will receive a numeric grade for this course. The numeric grading system used by the University of Washington relies on a decimal scale between 1.7 (low) and 4.0 (high). For graduate courses, grades below 1.7 are recorded as 0.0 and no credit is earned. A minimum of 2.7 is required in each course that is counted toward a graduate degree. A 3.0 cumulative average in graduate work is required to receive a graduate degree. Your total grade for the course is acquired through the point system. To know your grade, divide your total points by 100.
Grades on the assignments will be based on
Assignments that are partially completed will not be graded.
Exercises from this class are open-book, so no memorization is involved in the course. The course is designed for you to learn from readings and from completing the assignments.
About the Course Developer
Dr. Whittington is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her PhD is in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied transaction cost economics with recent Nobel laureate Oliver Williamson. Prior to her academic career, she spent 10 years with infrastructure giant Bechtel Corporation as a strategic planner and environmental scientist. Her environmental interests arise from undergraduate degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her master's degree is in City and Regional Planning, from California State University, San Luis Obispo.
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