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Aligning Workforce Skills with Industry Needs Through Problem-based Learning Environments

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Focus on the Classroom: Novel Approaches to Course Delivery

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.168.1 - 26.168.12



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Paper Authors


Elaine L. Craft Florence-Darlington Technical College

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Elaine L. Craft (Florence-Darlington Technical College, Florence, SC) holds a baccalaureate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mississippi and a MBA from the University of South Carolina with additional graduate studies in mathematics. Her experience includes working as an engineer in industry as well as teaching and administration at community college and state levels. She has served as Director of the South Carolina Advanced Technological (SC ATE) Center of Excellence since 1994, leading initiatives and grant-funded projects to develop educational leadership and increase the quantity, quality and diversity of highly skilled technicians to support the American economy. Currently serving as Principal Investigator, Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE; Co-Principal Investigator, SC ATE National Resource Center for Expanding Excellence in Technician Education; and Co-Principal Investigator, ATE Regional Center for Aviation and Automotive Technology Education Using Virtual E-Schools (CA2VES). The SC ATE Center is widely known for developing and broadly sharing successful educational models and practices in technician education, with a particular emphasis on faculty development in problem-based learning, the first year of study for success in engineering and technology majors, and mentoring educators nationally.

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Donna Kay Chrislip

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Rex Allen Parr


Victoria Alexandra Sauber Arapahoe Community College

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Victoria Sauber (Arapahoe Community College, Littleton, CO) holds a baccalaureate degree in sociology from the Ohio State University with additional graduate studies in systems engineering from Regis University. Her experience includes working as a faculty member and past department chair for the Computer Information Systems department. Since 2011 she has worked with the South Carolina Advanced Technological (SC ATE) Center of Excellence to teach others how to implement problem-based learning. She also is a member of the Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education (CISSE).

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Aligning Workforce Skills with Industry Needs Through Problem-Based Learning EnvironmentsIndustry continues to require more of workers. The skills it takes to get, and keep, a job in theglobal marketplace for labor are expanding. For no group is this truer than for the Informationand Communications Technology (ICT) workforce. Due to the advances in informationtechnology (IT) applications, nearly all business practices today are “IT-enabled.” There iscontinued demand for skilled ICT workers, but largely only those who possess both ICT skillsand a range of employability (soft) skills that add value to their work. The maturing of IT jobscalls for the integration of employability skills with technical skills.The Boston Advanced Technological Education Connections (BATEC) Workforce Skills Study,along with independent research by industry trade groups indicate more holistic teachingmethods are in order that involve students in complex problems developed from industry input.In fact, the only plausible way to cover competencies in both areas is to develop a problem-basedlearning scenario that enables students to learn within a context, integrating real-world businessproblems into ICT classrooms.Classroom research and evaluation findings from a problem-based learning implementation forthe purpose of infusing employability skills indicate that students are being taught problemsolving and critical thinking skills through the use of project-based learning in introductory ITcourses. By introducing project-based learning into introductory IT classes at two Coloradocommunity colleges, hundreds of students are mastering academic competencies in the contextof solving “real world” problems that require collaboration, problem solving, critical thinkingand other employability skills. Teachers report that students engaged in project-based learningare energized in new ways and demonstrate improved learning outcomes. Classroom researchhas been, and continues to be, conducted to document these results. External evaluation extendedthroughout the first three years of the implementation.This paper will provide the steps taken by two community colleges to infuse employability skillsinto their introductory Computer Information Systems (CIS) classes via problem-based learning.The authors will outline how the employability skills were identified and vetted with industry;how faculty were engaged and prepared for a change in mindset, as well as in curricular designand implementation; the framework of the real-world project; and the differences this approachcontinues to make in students’ understanding and application of the skills they need to becompetitive in the global marketplace.The National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) programfunding for the project that initiated this work ended in August of 2011, and follow-through byCIS faculty in continuing the problem-based learning methodology has been inconsistent.Faculty who continued to implement the real-world project, class-after- class, year-after-year,continue to see, and document through pre- and post-course student testing, sustainedimprovement in students’ grasp of the spectrum of skills necessary to survive in the workplace.

Craft, E. L., & Chrislip, D. K., & Parr, R. A., & Sauber, V. A. (2015, June), Aligning Workforce Skills with Industry Needs Through Problem-based Learning Environments Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23507

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