Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at a large mid-Atlantic institution has recently revised its entire sophomore year curriculum as part of a Revolutionizing Engineering Departments grant. The goal of the project is to welcome a broader range of students into the department, expand student curricular choices, and widen the number of possible careers graduates embark upon. The changes brought about a set of seven interconnected courses unique to the institution that all students enrolled in the department must pass in order to advance into their specializations. Although the change was made with the best of intentions to unify what was a fragmented department across disciplinary lines and expose students to essential knowledge cutting across electrical and computer engineering, a paradox in the goal of broadening participation emerged. How do these shifts affect the transfer population? The new courses have no direct one-to-one mapping to the previous curriculum, so transferring the old versions from a community college partner in the state will, at best, require transferring sets of courses.
Accordingly, our objective was to assess the extent to which engineering transfer students could be affected by the lack of applicable credit to the new courses by using Heilman et al.’s structural complexity measure, which was calculated from a graph of prerequisite structures. Generally, higher complexity scores are negatively correlated with completion rates. We consolidated plan of study checksheets for electrical and computer engineering programs from twelve community colleges whose students are currently enrolled in the department. Each consolidated plan of study combined the list of required courses for students to obtain an Associate of Science degree in Engineering with required courses to complete either a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering or in Computer Engineering. The structural complexity for first-time-in-college (FTIC) and transfer plans of study (n = 48) were then calculated and compared across the two majors in the department before and after the change.
We found that the structural complexity of the entire program has increased substantially from 324 to 543 (+219) in Electrical Engineering and 612 to 726 (+114) in Computer Engineering for FTIC students. The pathways for transfer student into Electrical Engineering increased in structural complexity by an average of +240 and for Computer Engineering by an average of +300, indicating potential trouble in completion rates. One course, Digital Systems, was identified to be the most crucial course in the sophomore year as the prerequisite structure prevents students from making any progress if they do not earn a satisfactory grade. Transfer students can be disproportionately affected by such structures, especially for students missing prerequisites like Differential Equations or the Introduction to Engineering course required of all engineering students, leaving them even further behind than before.
The method of analyses was useful in quantitatively articulating concerns regarding curricular structure for transfer students and prompted the department to consider methods of integrating transfer students into the new curriculum. We offer suggestions for implementing such analyses to forecast potential issues brought about by curricular change.
Reeping, D., & Grote, D., & McNair, L. D., & Martin, T. (2020, June), Curricular Complexity as a Metric to Forecast Issues with Transferring into a Redesigned Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34363
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