10 ways to (actually) make university IT assignments more relevant to industry.

A few years ago I returned from the IT industry to teaching in a university. Commenting that the states university courses seemed a little out of touch with industry requirements; I was asked how I would make assignments more relevant to industry. My response was not what they expected.

1 Change the assignment several times while students are working on it.

2 Assign 5 new members to the team 2 days before the assignment is due, claiming extra resources are needed. The students are told that ‘mythical man month’ does not apply in this case because of awesome management skills.

3 Have the best programmer in the team designated ‘programmer’. Then have other members fill the roles of ‘manager’, ‘second in charge’, ‘systems documenter’, ‘risk analysis officer’, ‘system analyst’ and ‘software tester’.
Everyone can say the programmer is not an important part of the team and does no real work. Everyone gets more grades than the programmer. Everyone gets to blame the programmer if the assignment is running late.

4 Request all work be done between 9am to 5pm.
Anyone arriving to assignment late is docked marks. The non-programmer who stays back latest it awarded the highest grade. Any programmer staying back late is deemed to be behind schedule and has to explain their lapse to the entire team at the next ‘scrum’.

5 Every week the IT assignment group (except the ‘programmer’) must meet with a MBA student group. The MBA students get to arbitrarily change the IT assignment groups project in anyway they please.

6 Every fortnight some marketing students explain to the lecturer that IT students are a ‘cost center’ while marketing is a ‘profit center’. The lecture will take some marks from the IT students and give them to the marketing students.

7 The marketing students project is to set new requirements for the IT groups project. The more ambitious the requirement the better their grade. Any requirement that is not delivered by the IT group’s assignment, is entirely the fault of the IT group.

8 The IT students will have to complete ‘assignment 2.0’ the following year. They will have a team of Indian exchange students to help the programmer. The team also gets a student from the psychology department to be called ‘HR officer’. This student deals with the team so that the IT student who is ‘manager’ does not have to get so stressed.

9 In the final year of study they will have to complete ‘assignment 3.0’. In this year the IT project group will be acquired by another university and will have to integrate their assignment with the assignment from another group in the new university.

10 If the students in the economics school school fail a test, the MBA student team gets to retrench a non-manager IT student from the project. The retrenched IT student is not trustable, so the student will have his uni login and access cards, secretly disabled. The IT student will discover he/she is no longer part of the team when trying to use their access card, or attempting to login to a computer. This causes campus security to appear and escort the student off the university premises.