As a counterpoint to my tale of classroom woe, I now present a success story.
Since last summer, I had been coaching Cindy, Jzel, and Alisa -- students in my open source technologies class -- in osCommerce. Early on, they had identified a project involving e-commerce to by their thesis; our classes over summer gave them the opportunity to work on their project well before their other classmates got started on theirs.
Yesterday, I received great news: they passed their thesis defense, the first group to do so in three days' worth of rigorous panel interviews.
I can attest to the hard work of these ladies, maximum credit of which should go to Cindy. At the end of last summer, they had gotten as far as installing osCommerce and customizing its templates. Major work still lay ahead, though, with customizing the payments and reporting systems.
I offered to host their project on my web server, which eased the burden technically and financially. Later on, as they added Paypal to their payment services, I also gave them (limited) access to my account. Finally, since their selected merchant proved difficult to work with, I passed them on to my sister's pet shop.
Throughout this semester, we consulted on the progress of the project. Cindy sat in during my lab classes so we could iron out kinks here and there and I could offer a new trick or two. Slowly the stores took shape; I have to admit, I was impressed.
So the end result: first group to hurdle their thesis defense, albeit with major document revisions (but I suspect almost everyone goes through that.) Which I think shows what's possible if the students are interested enough in the subject and really take ownership of the project.