Final Integrated Project (FIP)
Semester 8, year 4
Final Integrated Project Guide
1. Objective and positioning of the FIP
1.1 Objective of the Final Integrated Project (FIP)
The FIP is the final part of the study in which students must prove that they can put professional competences acquired in previous semesters coherently into practice. The FIP functions as an integration mechanism between competences which students obtained in the past and those they will gain in the future. It offers students a wider horizon and serves to show how practical challenges can be dealt with in an integral and intelligent manner.
The specific objective is to have students set up, carry out and complete the FIP individually or in groups of two with help wherever necessary.
In this project participants are expected to show that they are capable of applying the theoretical knowledge, skills and attitudes (expressed in competences) they have acquired in the previous semesters in practical assignments directly significant for an employer.
The project is important to students because success means that they are ready to join the international professional world. Having completed the project successfully, a student will graduate, provided he/she has completed all other necessary study obligations.
The FIP is the study component in which the student must show his ability to function in this business environment. The description below of the graduate's business environment elegantly profiles the essence of his profession.
'The professional field of the graduate is both broad and international. In practice, this means that his activities will constantly involve international contacts, demanding special knowledge and skills in various fields, such as intercultural relations and international trade. Flexibility and adaptability are core elements of his activities. Every assignment will be different, and he will have to use his reliability, empathy and power of persuasion to co-operate with experts from various disciplines. His wide knowledge of organisation, management, commerce, and business economics makes him a professional negotiator at management level, both internally and externally.'
1.2 FIP positioning
In the study curriculum, the Final Integrated Project takes on an essential role as integrating and depth module. The study trains students to bachelor level. The programme covers 8 semesters, divided over 4 academic years. The FIP takes place in the final (eighth) semester and is carried out within one of the two specialisations: 'Marketing' or 'Finance and Business Analysis'.
The curriculum structure of the study is characterised by shifting from teaching separate elements associated with knowledge, skills and attitudes to an integral teaching approach in the later semesters. Here, increasing attention is paid to applying professional competences in simulated or real professional situations.
Students must adopt an attitude through which they can demonstrate that they are learning:
1. from a global perspective,
2. on the basis of active development of knowledge,
3. from experience and are open to the process of gaining experience,
4. from an attitude that is based on learning from and with each other.
The study is based on three basic terms: self-management, professionalism and world citizen.
In the light of these three terms the study seeks to teach the student how to steer his own learning process and understand and manage his own development. The aim of the study is to train the student into being a graduate capable of functioning in a continuously changing international business environment. After graduation, the student will need to develop competences on his own initiative and be willing to 'learn for life'. The purpose is to ensure that students become excellent BBA graduates who can effortlessly act as professional and competent managers in international business organisations.
The integral learning line towards professional competences, the aspects of attitude and the basic terms of the study are covered effectively in the FIP.
The level of supervision depends on the project group's desire for independence on the one hand and the study's desired support on the other.
Prior to the project, students have one introductory get-together. During this meeting they may ask questions about the study manual and the project. And they can discuss themes such as group make-up, finding sponsor companies and tutors' supervisory activities.
The project group is supervised by two experienced tutors who provide the project group with feedback and advice on project skills and problem-solving skills. The members of the project group are expected to indicate when and to what extent they need assistance. On the other hand, the tutors provide assistance on their own initiative if they consider this necessary. The bottom line, however, is that the project group remains independent. The successful functioning of the project group may never depend on the input, supervision, tutor or anyone else who is not a member of the project group.
The project group's primary independence does not alter the fact that the study remains responsible for supervision. For example this is expressed if the study believes that the project is threatened with failure. In such a case the study intervenes.
To arrange supervisory activities, the project group and tutors have to programme their face-to-face contacts. Agreements as to the nature and frequency of the reports, and the resulting supervision are made in the initial project phase. The same applies to the communication methods: telephone discussions, mail or reports. The group may also use the Blackboard Learning System. The school encourages students to maintain contact with each other to let them experience the additional value of shared reflection on their international experiences.
2 Learning objectives and competences of the
This chapter outlines the students' situation at project start based on the competences they are expected to possess. It also indicates the specific learning objectives of the FIP in measurable criteria. The former is important to students because they then know at the start of the project what they are expected to be capable. The latter is important because it lets them know the criteria on the basis of which the results of the Final Integrated Project will be evaluated.
2.1 Existing competences at project commencement
At the beginning of the FIP students are expected to possess the competences that are required to successfully carry out the project. The purpose of the project is not so much about learning new competences, but rather about students showing their ability to coherently apply in practice the competences they have acquired earlier on in the curriculum.
Another important aspect is that the student can demonstrate relevant behaviour. This goes beyond action; it also includes verbal and written reflection skills, analysis and accountability for actions selected and application of theoretical terms to attitude and practice. The relevance of behaviour is expressed in the positive contribution following from that behaviour within the specific social and organisational context in which the student is involved.
'The ability, while working in a team, to safeguard that behaviour and activities corresponding to the culture and aims of the organisation or society, which should be in keeping with generally accepted norms and values. The graduate's role is to ensure that the initiatives and decisions of management are in line with these generally accepted norms and values of society.'
The study curriculum is based on 16 competences. The first eight are of professional nature, the second eight are generic. The notes to competences can be found in Appendix 7.
1 International Business Awareness
2 Intercultural adaptivity
3 International Strategic Vision Development
4 Organisational Policy Development
5 Entrepreneurial Management
6 International Marketing
7 International Operations
8 International Financial and Management Accounting and Financial Management
11 Learning and self-development
12 Communication (oral and written)
13 Analysing and information processing
14 Creative problem solving
15 Planning and organising
16 Ethical responsibility
2.2 Specific objectives of the FIP;
What must the student prove able to control?
This section describes what students must clearly be able to do at the end of the FIP. This operationalisation is the basis for the testing procedure, in addition to the criteria that follow from matters such as type pf project, preconditions that apply to a valuable study project and the specific instructions as to setting up, carrying out and completing the project.
Specific objectives of the FIP – The student is capable of the following:
1. recognising the opportunity of a business research project and using it;
2. initiating a management project within a project group for the sake of and in cooperation with an international sponsor company;
3. describing and explaining the objective of a business research project as well as the methods to reach that objective;
4. describing the factors that contribute to a successful business research project;
5. distinguishing the different research methods and techniques available and selecting the right method for the specific objective of the project;
6. using the practical skills required to carry out research activities;
7. maintaining the practical skills that are required to be able to function as part of the organizational management and the project management;
8. taking decisive action;
9. recognising and solving problems;
10. contributing positively to the group process, both in terms of leadership (possibly in parts) and membership;
11. objectively analysing the organisation;
12. professionally planning and carrying out activities;
13. professional presenting relevant material to interested parties;
14. maintaining a positively critical attitude when it comes to solving problems, defining management problems, team building and negotiations;
15. maintaining a positively critical attitude in terms of one's own functioning.
3 Conditions for the Final Integrated Project
This chapter covers guidelines and conditions important to setting up the FIP.
3.1 Study load and practicability
Completing the FIP successfully is worth 18 credits. The total time invested is 504 hours, divided over 64 study days.
3.2 Composition of the project group
The FIP is an individual or a group project involving no more than two students. The group composition is a shared responsibility of students and their supervising tutors. One significant criterion is multiculturalism. This means that the group should consist of individuals with very different cultural backgrounds. This demand responds to the study objective of training students into professionals who feel comfortable in international settings. It is therefore important to use students' multicultural backgrounds to realise this objective.
Together with other criteria this leads to the following list;
2. Selected direction: marketing or finance and business analysis.
3. Choices resulting from specific competences which the project requires.
4. Student's affinity with a certain subject.
3.3 Criteria as to selecting study subject
The composition of the project group depends strongly on the selection of a subject and the interests of the sponsor company. Below are the criteria that matter to these choices.
1. The project subject accords with the selected specialisation: 'marketing' or 'finance and business analysis'.
2. Activities are relevant to the sponsor company.
3. Activities have been formulated on the basis of Smart criteria, creating the possibility of a realistic objective.
4. The subject is clearly related to the curriculum of the study.
1. The student is sufficiently motivated and interested in the subject matter.
2. The project meets the student's personal wishes, especially when it comes to reaching personal objectives in terms of additional competences and future job expectations.
· Criteria as to selecting the sponsor company
1. The sponsor company operates at international level.
2. The subject matter is evidently relevant to the sponsor company. Ideally, it will concern an existing company problem that has not been dealt with previously, for instance due to lack of resources.
3. The sponsor company guarantees sufficient high-quality supervision of the project group.
4. The sponsor company offers the project group access to data that are required to make the project possible.
5. The sponsor company provides the facilities that are required to realise the subject matter of the study. One should think in terms of working space, office facilities and a realistic degree of financial compensation.
6. The sponsor company wants to have a role in the evaluation project.
4. Phases of the Final Integrated Project
The project group's assignment is carried out in four phases:
1. The initial phase which is concluded with a proposal.
2. The implementation phase in which activities are carried out. This phase is concluded with a report.
3. The reporting phase in which results are presented to the parties interested.
4. The evaluation phase (see following chapter).
The evaluation phase is scheduled for the end of the project because that is when the study formalises final testing. Evaluation actually takes place throughout the project, focusing on the reporting phase.
4.1 The initial phase: proposal and methodological approach
The project group's initial activities focus on finding a sponsor company and formulating the proposal. The sponsor company acts as the employer or client of the project group. Finding a sponsor company depends strongly on the formulated study subject. The final subject and approach are selected in deliberation with the sponsor company. Towards the end of the initial phase the project group produces a proposal for the official approval of the study and the sponsor company.
4.1.1 The proposal
The proposal is a 10-page document in which the project group systematically explains the project setup (what, where, how, when and why). The proposal must comply with the requirements set by the study and includes, in addition to a general description, at least issues such as:
a. An estimate plus a financing scheme,
b. A schedule related to a systematically indicated gradual setup of the project,
c. A 'staff input and task allocation plan'
d. An account of the start situation of the project and related objectives.
e. The theoretical foundation and selected working method and/or research method.
The proposal must be formulated SMART, to be able to establish unequivocally in the evaluation phase whether the project has been a success. The proposal must also meet the requirements that are common in the business environment within which the project group moves. For instance, one must consider whether the proposal can be effectively sold as a product to the sponsor company.
The proposal is a product which serves as a key part of the evaluation of the Final Integrated Project.
One possible proposal setup could be the following:
1. Background information
2. Proposed Research Objectives
3. Proposed Research methodology
4. Proposed Data Analysis, related to research method
5. Proposed outlines for research report
6. Time and costs estimates
4.1.2 The methodological approach
During the introductory get-together of the FIP all students receive a reader and notes to the most important methodological principles that apply to the project.
The selected methodological approach as described in the proposal will partly depend on the research problem. Roughly speaking most research projects will have a rather more quantitative approach, a combination of both qualitative and quantitative approaches is also very common.
But this is neither inflexible or prescribed. On the one hand, there is the theoretical consideration that transition from qualitative to quantitative methods is not clearly defined, and on the other hand the practical consideration exists according to which this is an application-oriented and a practically-oriented bachelor study. Fundamental research techniques such as 'longitudinal and cross-sectional research' are then less obvious. During their FIP, students usually apply methods such as 'case study', 'interview', 'explanatory' and 'descriptive research' as well as 'questionnaires'.
The methods used in the implementation phase must be used in a professional manner. All methods, whether they are qualitative or quantitative, require careful consideration, for instance when it comes to validity and reliability. In cooperation with the tutor, the project group ensures that these considerations are made demonstrable, based on specific expertise.
Due to the bachelor level, quantitative research with a strong research-methodological and static component will only be the case in exceptional cases. In such case the study and the sponsor company will adjust the supervision of the project group accordingly.
4.1.3 Possible subjects
1. The international strategic vision of the sponsor company.
2. Policy concerning the organisational development of the sponsor company.
3. The international marketing activities of the sponsor company.
4. The operational management of the sponsor company.
5. The accounting system of the sponsor company.
The subjects 1, 2, 4 and 5 fit best within the specialisation 'Finance and Business Analysis', subject 3 goes best with 'Marketing'.
4.2 The implementation phase
The activities referred to in the proposal take place in this phase. The important element here is the way in which the project group deals with the professional tension resulting from implementation of the proposal in what is usually the tough world of practice. The degree to which problems emerge during the implementation phase undoubtedly and usually indicates the quality of the original proposal, but also reality.
So the level of professionalism with which members of the project group respond to setbacks that will certainly present themselves during implementation is important. This response is a measure of the quality of the project group and its members.
During the implementation phase the project group must be ahead in the final report production process and its presentation. While the final report only has to be provided at the end of this phase, it must generally be largely completed during this period.
Another point of attention for the project group is to keep a close eye on deadlines as to the collection and processing of data during the implementation phase. In consultation with the supervising tutors the group may divide tasks among its members. The advice is to appoint one member of the project group secretary and make him responsible for protecting response to the deadlines.
4.3 Reporting and presentation phase
In this phase the project group makes the report and presents it main findings to the study, fellow student and externals such as representatives of the sponsor company.
· The project group's report
In terms of layout and contents, the project group's report resembles the reports which professional consultants would present to their clients. It consists of approximately 15,000 words, 50 pages each of some 300 words.
Setting up the report one must bear in mind the target group. Basically two parties will be interested in the report: the school and the sponsor company. The study will need the report to judge the quality of the project group and its activities. The sponsor company wants a crystal-clear report, clear conclusions and practicable, substantiated recommendations. The project group might find difficulty combining both objectives in one report, in which case it will be permitted to provide two versions of the report.
The report must be easy to read and clearly and neatly presented. The project group had better check the report using a style analysis package such as PC stylist. Make sure to use a good layout.
· Structure of the report
1. Title page
2. Summary of the report
This section includes the executive summary. Only a few people will read the entire report. That is why this section is very important.
1. An index
3. Problem statement
4. Research objectives
5. Overview of research methods
6. Analysis and findings
7. Conclusions and recommendations
In this section the group will communicate what it believes the outcome of its research means. This is an interpretation linked to potential action alternatives which again are related to the original problem definition.
8. Resource consequences
The report must indicate which resources are required to realise the proposed action alternatives and possibly also which resources will be lot if proposals are not included.
10. Appendices (research proposal, detailed research methodology, review)
Each group will present its report to the parties involved on behalf of the sponsor company, the study and fellow student.
Presenting the report goes beyond representing the contents of the report. The presentation is a selling moment in which the project group presents its findings in such a way as to encourage the sponsor company and the study to (basically) provide resources to realise recommendations or to positively evaluate the project group's activities.
The presentation is a crucial aspect because it reflects the practice in which managers are constantly requested to defend their proposals.
The presentation form is partly up to the members of the project group. In choosing they must bear in mind what is common in the business environment in which they have carried out their project. The following elements are important:
- The presentation will take about minutes for the presentation itself, 20 minutes for questions, comments and discussion, 10 minutes for the supervisor's assessment.
- Ask yourself who your audience is, what the audience wants to hear, whether your presentation will be of any use to them, what will be reached with it, what technical-media assistance is necessary, who is the best candidate to do the presentation.
- The presentation structure must be clear, logical and coherent. A rule of thumb is to make sure the presentation has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is intended to explain the context of the presentation and clearly point out the objective. In the middle section the argument is provided and substantiated with the necessary details. In the final section a brief yet to-the-point summary of the proposal is offered, including the arguments for the proposal. A nice lesson here is "tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em; tell 'em; then tell 'em what you just told 'em…", all within tight time constraints of course. At the end of the presentation the audience should have the opportunity to ask questions.
- Bear in mind the fact that the audience might not remain interested for a long time. The presentation must be as short as possible, yet of high quality. Present only what is necessary to substantiate your proposals. Try to systematically figure out what the audience must know and do not be afraid to leave out what you think is irrelevant or confusing. If necessary Kill your darlings.
- Personal preparation is important. Be in control of the subject matter to be presented, try to anticipate questions and have the answers ready. Remain calm and clear. Speak calmly. Make eye contact on a regular basis, also with the decision-makers. Do not overdo humorous comments.
- Using images, diagrams and so on usually clarifies the presentation and saves time. Thoughtless use of these, however, might be confusing.
5 The evaluation phase
The evaluation phase is the final phase: the period in which the project group is evaluated based on the project outcomes, the way in which these outcomes were reached (the process) and the individual contribution of the members of the project group. Strictly speaking, evaluation and judgement do not take place in this phase only, however this is the period in which the end evaluation becomes final.
Evaluation is based on the three products provided by the project group.
1. The proposal
2. The end report
3. The presentation
One important touchstone will be the business environment's evaluation: in this case the client (employer) Aspects such as sufficient input by participants, a sufficient degree of self-reflection on own input, sufficient depth and project extent, the level of practical relevance and such like are important issues.
In addition to the evaluation carried out by the study and the client, another is carried out by group itself - the peer-review.
The student's individual development also matters in the evaluation process. Each student will keep a Personal Development Plan based on a SWOT analysis, not only to understand the learning points that matter to him personally, but also to indicate how and with which result the student intends to work on those individual learning points.
One significant fact is that, despite the evaluation of the sponsor company and the fellow students, the final assessment as to the success of the FIP will always be given by and under the responsibility of the school. Besides, the final assessment is an evaluation of the individual student. So the final assessment is always the task and responsibility of the school.
The testing method is based on the project's prescribed conditions. These criteria are partly based on the study's general basic principles referred to in the previous sections.
The three products (proposal, report and presentation) are evaluated on the basis of three criteria as presented in section 2.2 of this manual. The operationalisation of these criteria are laid down in the evaluation forms appended to this manual.
The Evaluation Forms:
1 A table for the evaluation of the report and the presentation. Appendix 2
2 An evaluation form to be filled out by the sponsor company: the Company Group Assessment Form; form A. Appendix 3: for the sponsor review.
3 An evaluation form to be filled out by the students stating their opinions on the functioning of their fellow members: Peer Evaluation Form D (appendix 4).
4 The PDP: the personal development plan.
Basis for the evaluation is a student report based partly on the PDP and a portfolio in which the student indicates how he has contributed to the project. If necessary the student may refer to specific input based on specialist knowledge or selected specialisation.
The table below represents the relationship between the evaluation criteria (see 2.2), the evaluation sources (report, presentation, sponsor review, peer review and the PDP) and the evaluation forms.
In general, the primary evaluators will be the two tutors - both a member of the school staff. The role of one staff member might be taken over by an external expert in the relevant field. The final evaluation will always be in the hands of the study. An evaluation will be given for each student also and this will take place towards the end of the project when all students will have individual interviews with the tutors about their individual performance.
The evaluators will provide their opinions independently. They will give a mark anywhere between 0 and 10. If marks are no more than 2 points higher or lower, those two marks will become average. If the difference is more than that, a third independent evaluator will be called in. If the mark given by the third evaluator is two points different or less from the tutor's mark, the two marks will become average. If the difference is more than that, the Examination Board will take a decision.
Evaluation is based on the criteria referred to in section 2.2.
These criteria are assessed on the basis of the documents mentioned in section 6.2.
The table in this chapter represents the mutual coherence of the previously discussed evaluation parts.
The different parts together can generate 100 points max. Below are the maximum points awarded to each part:
In the table below marking (points) is linked to the maximum score for each part, referring to appendices which include scoring forms. The appendices indicate how the different parts per form contribute to the total score.
The table below is also used by the study as a form to register the total score; therefore it has also been included as appendix 7.
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