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  • 10/18/2016
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Engineering Education: 5 Emerging Trends

Universities are taking several steps to update their engineering programs for modern IT.

Technology is evolving at a rate that is quickly outpacing traditional engineering teaching methods. As a result, many universities are replacing their outdated learning methods with more refined, hands-on teaching practices. From modern learning labs to technology-integrated curriculum, here’s how universities are revamping their programs to ensure the success of the next generation of engineers.

Hands-on learning labs

Current engineering majors have a balanced blend of hands-on and traditional lecture-style learning. Hands-on programs complement traditional learning by allowing students to apply classroom material to real-world applications. From 3D printing labs to high-performance supercomputing, student access to state-of-the-art research labs empowers them to put their ideas to the test.

According to a study conducted by Purdue, students are more likely to comprehend knowledge and solve critical problems if they can apply information in a realistic setting. Simulation and application-based learning, for example, is deeply engaging and allows students to refine their skills. As a result, students graduate with the skills and experience necessary to address industry problems on their own.

Industry-centric curriculum  

Beyond integrating hands-on learning into core curriculum, engineering programs actively incorporate industry-specific course material into the classroom. In programs like the Industry Partner Summit, professionals and academics come together to collaborate on course material. During theses summits, industry professionals and professors discuss cutting-edge discoveries, tools and trends emerging in the engineering world. Course information is subsequently updated to ensure students are exposed to the most relevant engineering knowledge and gain the proper skills to be successful in their careers.

Updating facilities

Today’s engineering classrooms have transformed to reflect a world that is increasingly collaborative and connected. Classrooms that were once cluttered with desks, chairs and chalkboards are now open-concept labs that encourage group presentations, brainstorming sessions and instructor demonstrations. Large tables and technology-equipped workstations replace individual desks to foster group projects and teamwork. Whiteboards line classrooms to encourage students to visualize, design and map out their processes. Classrooms are also equipped with interactive learning technologies including specialized laptops, tablets, and smart boards to supplement learning course material.

Adaptive learning software

In the time it takes for science and engineering textbooks to be written, printed and integrated into classrooms, the content within is often outdated and obsolete. Integrating adaptive learning software into engineering curriculum allows course material to be easily updated as new scientific discoveries and advancements unfold. This ensures students are learning the most recent course material, and it enables smarter teaching. Students are increasingly using adaptive curriculum platforms, like ALEKS, to learn science and math in ways that complement their learning styles. These platforms make it possible to tailor lessons for better retention.  

Honing soft skills

Engineering students need opportunities to develop non-technical skills in addition to mastering core curriculum in order to excel professionally. With pressure from industry professionals, universities are ramping up requirements for engineering students to enroll in soft-skill courses. Public speaking, professional writing, and career preparation classes are now required in many of the nation’s top engineering colleges.

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(Image: geralt/Pixabay)

Moreover, engineering programs have focused their efforts in building student organizations and clubs to further refine non-technical skills. Involvement in extracurricular activities allows students to take on leadership and team-player roles, and in return, they develop their abilities to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, resolve conflicts, and succeed in the professional world.

As the world changes and adapts to emerging technologies, so too should the programs that inform the next generation of engineers. By transforming conventional engineering education into a more hands-on curriculum, we’re helping today’s engineering students become tomorrow’s engineering leaders.

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