EIT Stock Image‘The Coming revolution in engineering education’ is always somewhat tedious to read – it is an old worn cliché. We seem to be supposedly having revolutions in everything these days. Certainly there is change coming in engineering education but revolution – I doubt it.

EIT Stock ImageDear Colleagues,

‘The Coming revolution in engineering education’ is always somewhat tedious to read – it is an old worn cliché. We seem to be supposedly having revolutions in everything these days. Certainly there is change coming in engineering education but revolution – I doubt it.

Technology Driven Revolutions are Overdone
Over the past century there have been an enormous number of claims of revolutions in education (particularly with technology ranging from TV, computers to the internet). None of them have happened. You can use technology to make learning more efficient but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is more effective. I believe we can all remember the ghastly rote-based computer-based training sessions which were totally useless.

Successful training is really based on how you design the learning, the level of interactivity of the training, the quality of the materials and how good the instructor is. And finally – how this training and education is applied to the job.

Engineering Education Needs to be Dramatically Improved
I am convinced that engineering education at college or university is still extraordinarily poorly done. I still hear of students being subjected to countless hours of boring lectures on meaningless subjects they will never use in the real job market. Universities are still considered an assembly of experts focussed on research (which is where they are rewarded for and where they achieve a level of prestige). The engineering students are often forgotten. It is vital to remember that knowledge and expertise (formerly residing with the professor) is freely available nowadays – esp. on the internet.

In addition, one doesn’t need to demonstrate prowess with advanced mathematics and physics to be able to work as an engineer or technologist these days.

OK – so what is required….?
As you are no doubt aware - a few suggestions on useful education and training for a future engineer or technologist would include:

  • Encourage entrepreneurial spirit for students. They should be prepared to experiment and fail often with projects, products and services before being successful.
  • Encourage creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’
  • Education is a team effort between students and instructors where collaboration and trust is the order of the day.
  • Skills such as project management are critical.
  • The ability to communicate well is key – whether this is verbal or simply typing up an email.
  • Expect and thrive on change. It is everywhere and it will continue.
  • Openness and transparency – students and instructors work together collaboratively. The old ‘sage on the stage’for instructors ain’t gonna work any longer with the modern student who wants value.
  • The student should  absorb a passion for other areas such as the arts, business and law….

Naturally, give students the basic know-how in physics and engineering but encourage them  to discover the knowledge they require and to be constantly on a lifelong learning mission. Not necessarily through formal courses but from buddies in discussion forums, on the job or from a mentor.

As we all know – most of what we are taught at engineering school isn’t used in one’s career. There is a great opportunity today, to change this and make engineering education something sought after and engineering graduates admired as real contributors to society.

Bruce Dickinson remarked: Engineering stimulates the mind. Kids get bored easily. They have got to get out and get their hands dirty: make things, dismantle things, fix things. When the schools can offer that, you’ll have an engineer for life.

Thanks to an  interesting  book: A Whole New Engineer by David E.Goldberg and Mark Somerville.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 2nd Feb’16 #585
125, 273 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay