Engineering Systems Design - Subject innovation
As part of a wide range of educational and curriculum reforms at the University of Melbourne due to the introduction of the Melbourne Model in 2008, the School of Engineering now operates two new combined first year subjects for all students interested in pursuing studies in engineering.
The major challenge for engineering academics was to produce a curriculum, teaching structure and environment that incorporates lectures, tutorials, project work that facilitates cooperative learning and encourages students to take a more active role in their education. The key vehicle in delivering such an outcome was the creation of active teaching workshop classes, which provide the main opportunities for active learning.
The two subjects created for the new year engineering program are titled Engineering Systems Design (ESD) 1 and 2. An important element of the subject design is the inclusion of material that addresses transition of the students to university life. Team building activities and work associated with professionalism, study skills, report writing and library skills are important aspects of the first few weeks of the ESD 1 program.
ESD 1 also introduces students to important generic engineering skills such as concept maps, planning designs, decision making and working in groups. By having the students work in teams of three in the workshop classes, students at risk may be identified earlier. Following on from ESD 1, ESD 2 is more technical in nature and covers material from digital circuits, programming, statics and dynamics. Large design projects that heavily promote team work are completed during the semester that hone both the students’ technical and creative skills while collaboratively working not only in their teams but also with their peers.
The workshops for ESD 1 and ESD 2 are part tutorial and part laboratory and are run in a semi-casual environment in purpose built facilities with students working in small groups over a period of three hours. These classes are run in conjunction with traditional lectures; the difference being that in these classes students are given time to discuss subject material with both staff and other students, work in groups on assignments and in-class design projects, and are given hands-on practical projects where possible.
The purpose of the new format workshops is to encourage both active learning and to facilitate students to develop teamwork and leadership skills. The tight integration between workshop classes and lectures further enhances the material presented in a traditional lecture environment by providing reinforcement of key concepts through design projects.
The “ESD team” of Prof Jamie Evans, A/Prof David Shallcross, A/Prof Andrew Ooi, A/Prof Ray Dagastine and Dr Gavin Buskes have embraced the new active learning paradigm and employed innovative teaching methods to design and deliver a new first year engineering experience that is unique to the University of Melbourne. They have combined innovative teaching techniques including using tablet PCs in lectures, survey “clickers” to gauge students’ responses to questions in lectures, peer assessment to foster group work and integrated online assessment tools to provide rapid feedback to students. Their experiences have been the subject of several research papers in Engineering Education.
Visit the Engineering Systems Design website to learn more.