Merits of capstone projects in an online graduate program for working professionals

Justine Blanford, Patrick Kennelly, Beth King, Douglas Miller, Tim Bracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Capstones in professional masters-level programs serve a unique nexus of developing professional, industry-specific competencies within a graduate-level academic setting. Universities offering such degree programs must demonstrate the benefits of an academic approach to working professionals, while focusing on the development or enhancement of a wide range of hard and soft skills required by industries and employers in the field of study. In this paper we highlight the capstone project model used in an online geospatial professional program in which students apply a wide range of technical skills as well as enhance their soft skills through problem-based projects. These projects include advisement from graduate faculty, rigorous project planning to ensure the work is integrated with and builds upon the leading edge of applied research, and include numerous cycles of revision based on feedback from faculty, fellow students, and peers in the industry. We examined completed capstone projects and surveyed past students to evaluate how relevant the capstone experience was in developing geospatial competencies. The learning model presented here is flexible and highly applicable for enhancing industry competencies for working professional students not only by providing students with the opportunity to develop research-led projects, but also for the educational institution to adjust to changing demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-69
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Geography in Higher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Education


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