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An Innovative Project-based Learning Approach to Teach Project Management

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Engineering Management Division 4: Teaching and Learning in Engineering Management

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

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Paper Authors


Yi-hsiang Isaac Chang Illinois State University

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Dr. Yi-hsiang Chang is an assistant professor in the Department of Technology at Illinois State University. He received a MSME degree from Carnegie Mellon University, a MSIE degree and a PhD degree in Technology, both from Purdue University. Dr. Chang has worked with several international corporations including Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, and Dassualt Systemes, as well as multiple small to medium size companies in both US and Asia. His current field of focus is in product innovation, process improvement, and technology diffusion.

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Dave Yearwood University of North Dakota

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Dave Yearwood, Ph.D., CSTM is Professor Emeritus in the School of Entrepreneurship. Yearwood was a Graduate Director in two disciplines and also the past chair of the Technology Department at the University of North Dakota. Dave has been teaching in higher education for 31 years at the undergraduate and graduate levels (Community College, Technology Department, and the Ph.D. program in Teaching and Learning). Yearwood’s two research interests are: 1. Electronic Pedagogy—the purposeful use of technological tools in education to enhance teaching and learning; and 2. The study of control or semi-automatic systems for use in commercial and/or consumer settings.

Dr. Yearwood was presented with the outstanding teacher award in the College of Business and Public Administration (CoBPA) on two occasions, he also earned the coveted combined Teaching, Service, and Scholarship award (CoBPA), and was nominated at the university level for outstanding graduate and undergraduate teaching awards. In 2009 Dr. Yearwood was one of four professors recognized nationally by the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE ) as Outstanding Professor in the areas of Teaching, Research, and Service. Dr. Yearwood is a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines—an island in the Caribbean. He is an avid cyclist (bicycle), rides his motorcycle even in the worse winter weather, and enjoys camping. Dave also served in the US Air Force. Dr. Yearwood continues to research and collaborate with colleagues. He can be reached at

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Project-based learning often asks students to create a project plan for a real or imaginary client that is built upon what is learned in one or more courses. However, while the project-based learning pedagogical approach appears to be a useful candidate for providing students with hands-on experiences, how can we as educators create meaningful project planning activities that realistically reflect practices in the field? Successful plans are easily differentiated from deficient plans when input from subject matter experts is considered. Therefore, determining the scope of the project, creating a work breakdown structure, and identifying the critical path particularly with input from subject matter experts is crucial to facilitating learning-by-doing for real or pseudo projects in the planning stages.

In this paper, we present an innovative project-based learning approach for teaching project management. By incorporating the design thinking strategy in the curriculum, student teams identify and define problems (or needs) by empathizing the users, proposing design alternatives, and creating quick-and-dirty prototypes to gain quick feedback. Functional prototypes are built for benchmarking purposes while at the same time verifying whether the proposed solutions actually resolve the issue(s). Through the design-build-test process, it is expected that students would develop the knowledge and experience of the “subject matter experts”, and thus various activities at the project planning stage will become more meaningful. Using the test result(s) of functional prototypes, the team(s) will revise their solution(s) and develop a project plan to scale up their proposed solution(s), either with a product production line or a service model. The paper will conclude by discussing the outcome of this approach, identify possible limitations, and provide recommendations.

Chang, Y. I., & Yearwood, D. (2020, June), An Innovative Project-based Learning Approach to Teach Project Management Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34129

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