June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
New Engineering Educators
13.198.1 - 13.198.7
An Oft-overlooked Resource: Undergraduate Students Can Be a Valuable Asset to Help Improve the Curriculum, Facilities, and Pedagogy
Many college campuses do not have graduate students to use as a resource for teaching, research, grading, and other pedagogical activities. These schools include some satellite campuses of major universities, many private colleges that focus on undergraduate education, and community colleges. Although they do not have graduate students, they are replete with undergraduates, and some of those students can be great assets for improving the local educational environment. Why not capitalize on that opportunity?
This paper describes a project that used two volunteer students, both upperclassmen, to do most of the work developing a pair of lab manuals at one of Purdue University’s satellite campuses. The lab books, totaling over 200 pages, were customized specifically for the labs used by the beginning circuits courses. We describe the genesis of the project, how each student became involved, the experience of managing and coordinating the work, the lessons learned by all three individuals, and the costs/benefits for all involved, including the students who used the manual in its initial form. The concluding section offers encouragement to other faculty and students who may be in similar situations, as well as suggestions to avoid some of the missteps by the authors.
The setting for this project was a satellite (referred to as Statewide) campus of Purdue’s College of Technology. Life is a lot different away from the main campus. While Statewide professors typically have fewer committee assignments and teach smaller classes, they have other challenges: They teach more classes, advise students, and have responsibilities to perform high school and/or industry engagement. Moreover, graduate assistants are not available, and technician support is sometimes less effective. These limitations can make pedagogical development very difficult.
Nevertheless, there may be a solution readily available, albeit from a perhaps unexpected source: undergraduate students. Many authors have written about various topics concerning undergraduate student research, including making the research effective,1,2 benefits of the experience,3 using it as a transition to post-graduate studies,4 combining it with industrial collaboration,5 and combining it with scholarship.6 In 2007, a student-centered, web-based resource called WebGURU was set up for undergraduates interested in research.7 It makes sense that this type of student could also help develop pedagogy.8
In this project two such students teamed up to produce a pair of lab workbooks using Microsoft (MS) Word, Visio, and Paint; and Cadence PSPICE. The final products totaled over 200 pages and were customized for the local campus. The remainder of the paper describes how the project began and each student became involved, how it was managed, lessons learned, and
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