Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Active Learning in First-Year Engineering Courses at Universidad Catolica De la Santisima Concepcion, Chile

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Active Learning in First-Year Engineering Courses at Universidad Catolica De la Santisima Concepcion, Chile

Article excerpt

1 INTRODUCTION

In 2008, the School of Engineering of the Universidad Catolica de la Santisima Concepcion (UCSC) began its curriculum reform process using a CDIO-based approach of five engineering programs. The conceive and design phases have been completed to date, and the implementation phase was begun in 2011. Several results of the first two phases were presented at the 2011 CDIO Conference (Loyer et al, 2011). This paper focuses on the implementation phase relative to the first year of two engineering programs, Computer Science and Industrial Engineering.

Most engineering programs in Chile are six-year programs leading to a professional degree (Music, 2002; Vial, 2005). At the UCSC, the first three years of its engineering programs were dedicated toward building a strong foundation in mathematics and sciences such as physics and chemistry. Even though the first three years included a few technical and professional courses, most of them were taught in the program's last three years. Feedback from students gathered through our last program accreditation process in 2010 showed that their motivation was affected by this math and science-heavy curriculum, and by the fact that students did not become properly familiarised with their chosen profession until relatively late in their studies.

2 FIRST-YEAR CURRICULUM REFORM

The curriculum reform process at UCSC addresses this motivational problem in the first years by incorporating first-year courses inspired by Johns (2006) and designed following a CDIO-based approach (Crawley et al, 2007), using CDIO standards 1, 4 and 8 as guidelines (Brodeur & Crawley, 2005). This section briefly describes these courses. As can be determined from the course descriptions, the courses follow CDIO standard 1 (CDIO as Context), in that they illustrate the Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate principle (Crawley, 2008), and also CDIO standard 4 (Introduction to Engineering), in that they provide a framework for the practice of the particular engineering discipline and stimulate students' interest in, and strengthen their motivation for, their field of study. These courses also focus on developing personal and interpersonal skills and attitudes that are essential for their academic and professional development. How these courses relate to CDIO standard 8 (Active Learning) will be described in the active learning section.

The first-year course load of the computer science program at UCSC was modified to include two semester-length introductory courses, as shown in figure 1.

In the first course, Introduction to Computer Science, students become acquainted with their chosen field and professional role and with the software lifecycle by developing a project from its conception to its operation. This course aims to develop skills such as oral and written communication skills, planning, model construction, the elaboration of problem solving strategies, critical analysis and teamwork. It meets for 8 hours a week.

The second course is a Programming Lab where teams of students analyse computer science problems and design solutions following a structured approach, in which each stage of the process is supported by specific tools and techniques. This course allows students to engage in programming and also to develop personal skills for self-learning and teamwork. It meets for 5 hours a week.

The first-year course load of the industrial engineering program at UCSC was also modified so as to include two semester-length introductory courses, as shown in figure 2.

The first course is called Introduction to Industrial Engineering, and prepares students for their academic life by giving them the tools necessary to understand the vision, activities and problem-solving skills of an industrial engineer, taking into account the scientific background and technological foundations of their field of action. It seeks to cultivate the ability to analyse problems and propose solutions through systematic decision-making processes. …

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