June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Cooperative & Experiential Education
26.278.1 - 26.278.13
How Project-Based Learning Benefits Engineering Students: Employers’ PerspectivesAs the final phase of a mixed-methods study that explored the impact of project-based learning(PBL) on alumni of a technology-focused university featuring a project-based curriculum, anexternal party conducted in-depth interviews with ten engineering employers of alumni todetermine how PBL prepares students for the engineering workplace. The employers interviewedranged from a Fortune 500 multinational conglomerate to a not-for-profit organization and abranch of the U.S. military. This paper discusses qualitative findings from these interviews,contextualized by findings from a recent alumni survey. All employers interviewed indicatedthat they regularly and actively seek out graduates from this university to hire as employees.While employers noted that graduates from this university possessed especially strong skills inthe areas of communication and collaboration—qualities that earlier phases of the study showedwere strengthened through participation in PBL—not all of the employers were aware that thegraduates had participated in PBL. Employers who were aware that PBL featured prominently atthe university perceived the graduates as particularly mature job candidates. They furtherindicated that it was an asset to hire graduates who already had significant project experiencebecause those graduates brought skills and approaches to their work that enabled them to operateautonomously faster than they would otherwise. While none of the individuals interviewed forthis study were alumni of the university, some noted that alumni desire for recruits from theiralma mater had significantly and positively impacted hiring practices at their organizations.Findings of the study overall indicate that PBL is beneficial not only to the students whoparticipate in it but to the engineering employers who hire them, as well.
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