June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Electrical and Computer
13.12.1 - 13.12.10
A Case Study: A New Course on Engineering Project and Management for First-Year Graduate Students in Electrical and Computer Engineering
The electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department at the University offers a graduate curriculum that is designed to help students develop skills for system integration and acquire effective business and technology practices, as well as, fundamental knowledge in the ECE field. As part of the curriculum, a new course on engineering project and management has been recently introduced to first-year graduate students. This new course guides students through a complete design cycle from inception to completion with a pre-defined project of a complex system. This paper focuses on the experience and lessons learned from offering the Capstone- like, project-based design course to first-year ECE graduate students. It reports details of the course and pedagogical approaches to achieving the course objectives. Evaluation results are also presented on course outcomes and learning experience of students.
In recent years, the trend in engineering education and its approaches has evolved towards incorporating hands-on projects into engineering courses and also part of an engineering curriculum. Such educational approaches in higher-educational institutions are often referred to as the project-based learning. In ABET-accredited undergraduate programs, the so-called Capstone project or senior design project is offered for this purpose typically over two semesters and considered a mandatory course for students to fulfill the requirements for the program. Within an engineering course, various activities relevant to a small engineering design are often incorporated at different levels. The intent of the project-based learning is to prepare and produce engineering students with skills and knowledge necessary for fast-paced, high-tech engineering industry.
In graduate programs, class projects are also commonly assigned as part of the key components for the course in addition to traditional techniques of enforcing student’s learning such as homework, quizzes, and exams. However, complexity of such projects is often based on the assumption that students have reasonable technical and non-technical skills from their undergraduate education such that the application of appropriate new knowledge from the graduate course is the main focus in order to successfully carry out the project. For first-year graduate students with an engineering degree from an ABET-accredited higher educational institution, this would not be an issue although student’s competency may slightly vary. In most engineering graduate schools, however, there is a large population of international students. This situation is particularly true in our Electrical and Computer engineering (ECE) with a recent large influx of international students from Asia. We learned from the recent experience in educating them that their undergraduate curriculum reflected on their transcripts is not much different from that of an ABET-accredited institution. But the reality is that the actual content appears to be somewhat different and that the majority of the international graduate students are
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