Like most areas of society, engineering education has undergone profound change during the COVID-19 pandemic. Closed campuses have meant many engineering faculties around the world have had to look towards online delivery, technologically transforming the education field. However, from the eyes of engineering education experts, this development has been a long time coming.   

The idea that engineering education required a paradigm shift to fit into the future of education and work is an idea that was forwarded a decade and a half ago. A report regarding that idea, published in 2005, by the National Academy of Engineering in the United States was titled ‘Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Education to the New Century’.

The report was compiled from a United States-based commission established to assess engineering education in 2005. Their aim in assessing the state of engineering education was driven by concern that engineering students at that time may not have been appropriately educated to meet the demands that we now see placed on the modern engineering student in 2020.

They noted that the fundamentals of engineering would not change over time, but the explosion of knowledge and the pace of technological change would create new career pathways in the engineering world. With the pace of technological change, the way engineers are educated has morphed into something new over the years. However, something the commission could not have expected, when compiling their report in 2005, was the arrival of the global pandemic. The pandemic has created further challenges in how instruction and learning occurs.

A recent report published on the 3rd of October 2020 from researchers across Cornell University’s many engineering and computer science faculties highlights just how important the development of online-focused education institutes have become since the outbreak of the coronavirus. They report that 1.5 billion students worldwide were affected by COVID-19 which culminated in education institutes’ closures and ‘educational changes’ during the academic year. The researchers write:

“The negative impact of such sudden change is undeniable. Urgent and careful planning is needed to mitigate pandemic negative effects on engineering education, especially for vulnerable, disadvantaged, and underrepresented students who have to deal with additional challenges.”

The report highlights how technology can help mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic’s effect on engineering education. These technological interventions have already been ensuring that engineers can partake in distance learning and building of skills through utilizing the internet. In the 2005 commission’s report, under the chapter ‘Guideposts to the Future’, they wrote:

“These technologies could possibly also be harnessed to transform education and training in ways previously unimaginable. Rapid advancements in the years ahead could enable new learning environments using simulations, visualizations, immersive environments, game playing, intelligent tutors and avatars, networks of learning, reusable building blocks of content, and more.”

Just three years after the 2005 commission outlined their guideposts for the 2020 future, EIT launched in 2008. With the aim of providing world-class higher education through newer forms of education delivery, EIT is now leading the way as one of the only online engineering education institutions in the world.

With cutting-edge industry-oriented programs, we have created our courses with the goal of being flexible for already working specialists and for those who cannot always be on-campus.

Our unique online delivery methodology makes use of live and interactive tutorials, an international pool of expert lecturers, dedicated learning support officers, and state-of-the-art technologies such as hands-on workshops, remote and virtual laboratories, and simulation software.

EIT’s remote and virtual labs allow students to remotely control lab computers in real-time. Students are able to access a wide range of engineering software and connected hardware that they might expect to see in real-world working situations. The students are thus aptly prepared and equipped to deal with industry-standard applications and hardware that keep engineering businesses running.

Engineers will be key to the continuation of societal development, and the world is going to need these contributors more than ever as the world buckles up for another oncoming year. 

Works Cited

Asgari, Shadnaz, et al. “An Observational Study of Engineering Online Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” ArXiv.org, 3 Oct. 2020, arxiv.org/abs/2010.01427

“Read ‘Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century’ at NAP.edu.” National Academies Press: OpenBook, www.nap.edu/read/11338/chapter/1

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