Unfortunately, my camera failed after 2/3 of the speech, so the video ends prematurely. Nevertheless I hope you enjoy.
Education is challenging. It always was challenging in the past, and it always will be challenging in the future, but every generation of educators and society has to find their answers on the challenges specific to their era. This talk is about how to address some of the challenges in engineering education in the 21st century.
We are in the middle of a transition from an all-analog set of skills and education to a setting where analog and digital skills work naturally together. Industry increasingly complains about the skills gap they face with graduates in engineering, for lack of project awareness, problem solving skills, applicable tool skills or applied science skills. Academia complains about students not bringing the necessary basic skills in math and physics and sciences to educate them to become engineers. Teachers complain about a lack of student engagement and too strict focus on exam-relevant matter. Students complain about classes not engaging them and leaving them with the feeling of irrelevance.
A fair number of educators on all levels are accepting the challenge for what it is – a challenge, something to solve. Something to engineer our way out.
If we put this chain of challenges – industry, academia, school, students – on its head and start with the student engagement and education actually engaging students, a concept that is getting more attention is Project-Based Learning and Flipped Classroom. When applied gracefully, students educate themselves on concepts they need, with the teacher facilitating the learning experience and serving as coach and guide. Applying theory in practical ways with tools that are used as well in industry gives students a first-hand experience on industry relevant methods as well as the why behind academic theory. The talk will show examples, concepts and live demonstrations of using programming, modeling and simulation to gain insight into theory and application.
Project-Based Learning and Flipped Classroom are relevant to many levels of education. Well crafted, they tie into the education model CDIO, which stands for Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate. This educational model uses a process framework as used in industry, exposing students to the whole range of necessities to create something, resulting in an interdisciplinary learning experience. To allow for project scopes wider than what can be achieved with actually crafted goods, modeling and simulation are applied also without the upfront intent to manufacture things. Using the same tools as applied in industry gives the additional benefits of reusable skills.
Why reuse? Too often students feel that topics throughout their education are not well connected. In early stages, they often lack understanding of why they are learning something and what the application of that may be. Later they often no longer see the connection of advanced theory to fundamental concepts they learned much earlier. Reusing learning artifacts and methods throughout their journey helps mapping out the story. Demonstrations will illustrate how educators implement this re-use throughout teaching stages.
Consequent reuse leads to Integrated Curriculum, where not just the sum of all courses’ syllabus gives all necessary leaning items required for a certain qualification, but where the methods in each year build on one another. Examples and student evaluations in integrated curriculum enabled programs show a higher retention of know-how and a better sense of understanding. Academics appreciate that as well as industry does.
To summarize, engagement includes making math, physics and engineering able to experience using simulation and hardware experiments. This is to augment the calculations and make those more relevant. Educators are not alone in tackling these challenges. The tools and resources are there. Let’s address our generation’s engineering education challenges.
Photo: Joachim Schlosser, License CC-BY-SA.