The Real Gathering Storm: Instructional Short Circuits created by a Digital World

The Real Gathering Storm: Instructional Short Circuits created by a Digital World

R. Hugo, R. Brennan (2014).  The Real Gathering Storm: Instructional Short Circuits created by a Digital World. 12.

In an effort to guide the evolution of Mechanical Engineering education in response to changes occurring within engineering practice, the recent ASME Vision 2030 project solicited feedback from academia, early career engineers and industry. A total of 80 Mechanical Engineering (ME) department heads, over 1500 industry engineering managers, and 635 early career mechanical engineers were surveyed as part of this project. The global firms that participated in the survey were relatively large, with a median number of employees being 10,000. The survey results quantified the Strengths and Weaknesses of recent Mechanical Engineering graduates. Many of the categories evaluated in the survey map directly to the CDIO Syllabus, including Technical Fundamentals (1.2, 1.3), Problem Solving and Critical Thinking (2.1, 2.4), Experiments (2.2), Overall Systems perspective (2.3), Interpersonal / Teamwork (3.1), Communication (3.2), and Design (4.3-4.6). Given the extensive nature of the data collection exercise, the results provide valuable insight for CDIO Standard 12 – program evaluation, albeit on a multi-institutional averaged basis.

Program reforms driven by the ASME Vision 2030 results will naturally first focus on areas of perceived weakness as reported by industry. More subtle opportunities for reform also exist by carefully considering areas where there is a strong mismatch in opinion (2 or more points on the 10 point scale used in the survey) between academia and industry. This paper will adopt the latter approach by examining areas of disagreement between industry and academia for the purpose of continuous program improvement.

Examining recent graduate Strengths in the ASME Vision 2030 report, academics are found to overrate (with respect to industry) the strength of graduates in six areas: i) technical fundamentals (traditional ME subdisciplines); ii) problem solving & critical thinking (analysis); iii) design (product creation); iv) communication (written and oral); v) interpersonal / teamwork; and, vi) experiments (laboratory procedures). The fact that design, communication, and interpersonal/teamwork result in disagreement is not overly surprising within the CDIO community, and in fact these reported weaknesses provided the original motivation for the formation of the CDIO Initiative. What is concerning, however, is the fact that strong disagreement now appears in areas that were previously considered as being strong, namely technical fundamentals and to a lesser extent problem solving / critical thinking, and experiments. The paper will explore these areas of disagreement using both observational as well as quantitative data analysis.

Data supporting the analysis will be derived from a combination of sources, including observed changes in student perception for a Capstone Design course, student performance in a core Mechanical Engineering undergraduate course using different assessment techniques, and feedback from industry. The collected data will be used to build an argument supporting the notion that over the last 10 years technology has had a significant influence on student behaviour, and this change in student behaviour has decreased their ability to develop rich and meaningful knowledge structures.

Proceedings of the 10th International CDIO Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 15-19 2014

Authors (New): 
Ronald J Hugo
Robert W Brennan
University of Calgary, Canada
Classroom Cheating
Peer instruction
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 11
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