An investigation into the use of the Microsoft Office 365 toolkit to manage group projects in Undergraduate Chemical Engineering

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Group projects are a key aspect of all undergraduate chemical engineering programmes, driven by a professional body requirement to mirror industrial practice. At Teesside University, this requirement is met by provision of a group project at each level of both BEng and MEng programmes. Whilst it is important to assess the technical competency of students within these group projects, the projects also allow for assessment of organisation, project management and group working skills.
The typical cohort of undergraduate chemical engineers at Teesside University is such that there are a number of students who are enrolled as Part-Time with a day-release timetable, as well as students who have significant commitments and responsibilities outside the academic environment. The diverse nature of this cohort makes group work a challenging (and often contentious) aspect of the student experience.
The IChemE under its 2024 strategy is actively promoting the increased use of digitisation and technology to enhance engineering training. It is therefore serendipitous that this drive coincides with the launch of Teesside University’s Future Facing Learning initiative. As a part of this initiative, all new undergraduate students are issued an Apple iPad and access to a range of educational software applications. This work presents the authors’ efforts to comply with the IChemE’s strategy by taking advantage of the unique technological provision of
Teesside University to improve the group-working environment.
The applications used in this study include Microsoft Teams and Microsoft OneNote. At present all students up to (and including) Year 2 have been issued both software and hardware, whereas students in Year 3 and Year 4 have full access to the software only. The perceived student-focused advantages of using this toolkit include added flexibility within the group-working environment (using the collaborative features of MS Teams and MS OneNote) and support for more inclusive practice (using the accessibility features of both the software and hardware provided). For academics, use of the toolkit promotes engagement from all students, and the generation of a virtual logbook in MS OneNote promotes increased data security without the storage concerns brought on by physical logbooks. It is also of note that MS Teams is increasingly being used in the industrial sector.
The study detailed here has been conducted in two parts: a testing phase and a trial phase. In the testing phase, volunteers from all years of the programmes have worked in simulated groups to establish the capabilities and limitations of the software on a range of devices, including desktop PCs and the university-provided Apple iPads. In the trial phase, Year 3 students on the BEng and MEng Design Projects have trialled the use of the software to manage their project teams and activities.
This work presents the findings of these initiatives, with qualitative and quantitative results from both students and academics. It is envisaged that the results of this study will be used to inform the roll out of toolkit in other group projects, both in chemical engineering and in other disciplines within the university.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2021
EventChemEngDayUK 2021: Making Knowledge Work - Online, Bradford, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Apr 20218 Apr 2021


ConferenceChemEngDayUK 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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