Masters of Educational Technology and Applied Learning Science: Capstone

A Unique Opportunity for Students

METALS culminates with a capstone project that is the focus of the second and third semesters. In this seven-month project for an external client, students apply the techniques, theories, and methodologies that they have mastered in the program to deliver a final prototype for their client.

The Capstone Project is one of the most unique and desirable components of this program for students.  Students gain practical experience while they work with faculty and industry mentors in a team-based research and development project.  Many of our students choose Carnegie Mellon METALS program on based on its reputation, the strength of the faculty, and the basis of the practical experience the capstone project provides.

Our Students Say…

“I thought my capstone experience would be like any other project with all work ending up in a presentation or report that no one ever remembered or benefited from except for the members themselves,” said METALS ’16 alumni Kathy Yu. “It was a very new experience for me to see my regular schoolwork being ground-breaking work for an actual company (or even the US Government).”

Steven Dang (METALS ’15) explained his experience with the capstone project as an opportunity to apply knowledge from past classes to a real-world problem. “The capstone was both more grounded in the demands of a real world set of students and was an opportunity for us to apply knowledge from all classes at once to a problem. I also found managing both internal group productivity and external client/manager demands and expectation to be a very valuable skill that was emphasized in the course. Coming from the defense industry, this was a very common concern that I had to develop on the job, and it was refreshing to see a master’s program explicitly preparing their students with these skills.”

“I think that learning engineers and learning designers are really one of the up and coming professions. Pittsburgh is also an ideal place to be if you’re interested in educational technologies,”  Mark Potter said, a 2014 Alumni and learning designer for Pearson.


Spring Report

The METALS capstone project is a 32-week course over both the spring and summer semesters.

The first semester course curriculum focuses on understanding the needs of the sponsor and its company, setting scope, secondary research including competitive analysis, and user research. Students learn the techniques to work together in interdisciplinary teams to solve complex problems. At the end of the first semester the student teams produce a report of their findings, project website. The second semester includes an ideation phase that is guided by faculty and industry mentors.  In this phase teams use their research from the first semester to design and implement iterative prototypes to meet the needs and desires of the users. The students spend the remainder of the summer iteratively refining and testing their prototypes with feedback from users, and their mentors. At the end of the summer, the team is produces a fully functional prototype.

The spring semester consists of research, interviews, and observations.Each interdisciplinary team is comprised of 4 to 6 METALS graduate students with backgrounds in design, computer science, education, and psychology. Teams are assigned a corporate sponsor and two Carnegie Mellon METALS faculty members who mentor student projects each year. Mentors meet with teams on a weekly basis and provide ongoing lectures throughout the semesters. Sponsors meet with teams in Pittsburgh three times throughout the project for the course kick-off, end of spring semester report presentation, and the final prototype and presentation in early August. Throughout the 32-weeks, student teams communicate with sponsors in a normal industry fashion, using conference calls and email for questions and feedback.

Capstone class in full session near the end of the spring semester.

Capstone class in full session near the end of the spring semester.

The Capstone Project is the culmination of METAL students’ work at Carnegie Mellon.  The capstone project combined with the strength of program faculty and the reputation of the department makes the METALS program one of the top education technology and applied learning science master programs.