What is a Capstone Project?

A capstone project is the culmination of completion of a milestone in education. From the secondary level to undergraduate and graduate programs, capstones enable students to take what they have learned and apply it directly to their discipline.

Purpose of Capstone Completion

Liberal arts and humanities undergraduate and graduate degrees often require completion of a capstone course. Business degree programs, too, might have requirements for students to complete a final project that illustrates abilities and knowledge gained through the course of study.

Capstones enable students to not only showcase what they already know but to also continue to build skills, including collaboration, research, written communication, and critical and creative thinking skills.

Capstone Categories

Most capstones fall into one of two categories. In a research-based capstone, students identify a problem within their own area of study. Throughout the course of one or two semesters, depending on the institution’s requirements, students next conduct thorough research of the problem or situation, developing findings and conclusions. In some cases, recommendations will also be developed to include.

A project-based capstone requires students to create something in their degree field, using techniques and knowledge gained through coursework and other academic experiences. For example, a student studying website design would build a site for a business or other client, using processes from identifying audience to building a storyboard to publishing.

There are other opportunities for students who are completing other degrees in different academic areas as well. For example, students who are completing a fine arts degree with an emphasis on music or art might complete a final exhibition or give a last performance. Soon-to-be graduates in mathematics might complete a comprehensive examination.

Online and On Campus Programs

For accreditation, reputation, and quality of education, online programs at the undergraduate and graduate degree typically implement the same requirements for graduation as in-seat course programs. Students who are completing online degrees can expect to complete a final capstone course prior to graduation approval.

Benefits of Completing a Capstone

There are a number of reasons that completing a capstone course, whether research-based or project-based, can be beneficial for students. One such reason is the ability to include the finished capstone deliverable in a portfolio to show prospective employers the skills, insight, and knowledge a student has gained in his or her field of study. For many students, the opportunity to showcase these abilities is helpful when beginning the job search process, or for continuing on to the next level of education. As stated in an article published by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, the ability for the capstone to help the student understand everything that he or she has learned is perhaps most important in the process.

In either the research-based or the project-based type of capstone, students are also able to prepare for potentially going on to complete a doctorate. This is particularly true, however, for those master’s degree students who complete a research capstone, as it is helpful preparation for the extensive dissertation required in earning Ph.D.

A capstone project in education, like in building, is the final step in an arduous process. Throughout completion of any level of education, future graduates strive to develop the skills needed to be successful after receiving their degrees.

See also: 50 Great Schools Where High School Students Can Get College Credit