How We Can Fix Intro to Engineering Courses

posted on 02 May 2013 | words

Intro to Engineering courses are a necessity.

Most Intro to Engineering courses are useless.

Intro to Engineering courses exist to help engineering students get a job after college; to help students bridge the gap between academia and a career. The problem with these intro courses is that they can't evolve quickly enough. Engineering is changing, but the courses haven't caught up.

Now, here's how we can fix them:

  • Stop using the old textbooks. I don't care who wrote it or when it was written, an Intro to Engineering course shouldn't focus on one text.
  • Start using social media. Assignment idea: Have students contact someone in the industry that they respect with as many questions as they can fit within a tweet. Of course, allow those without Twitter accounts to attempt an email contact.
    • Contacts are everything, right? Teach students how contacts are made in the modern world.
  • Industry mags and blog posts from experts are important. If a class must contain 'summarize and respond' assignments, let students pick articles or posts they care about. The quality of their responses will instantly improve.
  • Presentations are important, powerpoint is not. Don't put artificial slide count requirements on presentations, this only reduces the number of good slides in a presentation.
  • Focus on solo presentations. There are times when presentations must be given as a group. Even so, when learning public speaking, working as a group can be extremely stressful and provides little return. Don't force students to work with a group, especially on their first few presentations.

PS: I'll write a post detailing what was wrong with the Intro to Engineering course that I took later on. I am publishing this post first because I'd rather focus on things that can be improved rather than rag on things that are broken.

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