Practice and participation in real projects are part of students’ daily activities at the Information Technology School – ITS, which continue even in these emergency circumstances. Classes are held without interruption via the DL Platform, and the Project Center, where students solve practical tasks, has also switched to online mode and continued its regular activities. We took a peek at their online workshop to make sure everything works as usual.
What’s it like to work on distance projects?
All members of the Project Center who participate in projects have been given state-of-the-art computers to work from home, with access to all licensed software and tools needed to complete their tasks.
They are currently engaged in two projects of great importance. The first is designing a web portal for sharing teaching and teacher training materials of the Association of Secondary Schools of Electrical Engineering. Given that IT is a relatively new area in Serbian secondary education, and that quality textbooks for secondary school in this field are very rare, teachers of IT subjects in secondary schools of electrical engineering are currently designing materials aimed at improving the instruction of vocational subjects. The goal of the platform is to make all material available to members and facilitate the sharing of best teaching practices in this area among teachers, as well as to enable access to learning content for students. Working on this portal is of great importance for the entire system of IT education, and will prove very helpful for teachers and students, allowing them to expand their knowledge and skills.
The second interesting project of the Project Center is an online platform for collaboration in reviewing Brainfinity challenge tasks. Brainfinity is a competition designed for students attending elementary school Years 5 through 8 from all parts of Serbia who want to try themselves at solving logical problems and win valuable prizes. The aim of the platform is to help teachers review the tasks, define unified assessment criteria and rank teams based on their performance in the competition.
Organization based on the use of best online platforms
Miloš Dobrota, Project Center coordinator, points out that working online is not a problem, because they are well organized and have state-of-the-art tools at their disposal.
“Selecting tools is very important so as to complete all the tasks we are currently working on. These are mostly platforms we are already familiar with, but we have introduced some new ones as well. Teams use the Scrum methodology of workflow. The project is split into two-week increments which are known as Sprints. Before the beginning of each, teams plan the tasks that will be carried out in the project, and at the end of each, the teams summarize their success in solving the task. In addition to these meetings, there are also short stand-up meetings on daily basis, where each team member informs their colleagues about the task they are working on, and the progress they have made in overcoming it. This mode of work allows us to organize ourselves in the best way possible and to successfully complete all planned projects.”
Students have proved their motivation even in these extraordinary circumstances, and successfully completed their tasks. Projects they are working on are innovative and allow them to show their knowledge and to learn something new, so participating in them is a source of great pleasure. In addition, they haven’t neglected their regular online lectures and studying for the upcoming exams.
Learning on real projects for a secure career in IT
ITS Director, Dr. Bojan Ristić underlines that IT experts are still among the most sought after professions, and that this trend is not going to change anytime soon, despite the current situation:
“The IT industry is one of few that, despite difficult circumstances, remains stable and continues to grow. The demand for IT experts continues to rise, and the most important elements for a well-paid job in this field is practical knowledge. This is precisely why our Project Center provides opportunities for students to participate in real projects and familiarize themselves with this industry firsthand.”
The Project Center was created in order to help students of ITS learn about team work firsthand, to communicate with clients, and gradually enter the business world. Members of the Project Center are divided into teams, where each team has its leader, and each member has their own task, realistic deadlines, and agreements on how each project should be carried out.
They are continuously in touch with the client, and have briefings where they negotiate the details of the final solutions. ITS teachers are also included, as well as expert associates – engineers from the Comtrade company. By working in the Project Center, they will improve their knowledge and skills, and task realization will bring them valuable practical experience that will prove invaluable in their future careers.