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Engineering Education In The 21st Century

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.192.1 - 1.192.7



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Ralph O. Buchal

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2358

Engineering Education in the 21st Century

Ralph O. Buchal The University of Western Ontario

Abstract Changing educational needs and reduced funding for traditional educational institutions are forcing a re- examination of the educational process. At the same time, emerging information technologies are enabling a transition from traditional instructor-centred teaching to a new model based on student-centred collaborative learning. The importance of the physical university is diminishing as information technology enables learning to occur anywhere, at any time. This paper describes the new model of collaborative learning, and evaluates emerging technologies to support it.

Introduction We live in a time of unprecedented change. All aspects of our society and economy are being transformed as we move to a knowledge-based economy. Education is becoming increasingly important, yet funding for traditional educational institutions is being cut. Universities must transform themselves to address changing educational needs. 1 For knowledge workers, work and learning are becoming the same thing . Learning is becoming problem-driven, as people continuously seek new knowledge to tackle new problems. In the new team-based organization, work and learning are becoming interdisciplinary and collaborative in nature. People need to learn on a just-in-time basis, from wherever they are, whenever is convenient to them.

Learning has been traditionally centred at formal schools and universities. Historically, universities made sense as a place where scholars and experts gathered, and where existing knowledge was archived in large physical libraries. A learning environment was established by the intermingling of students and professors, with access to a large library.

Information technology promises to shift learning away from formal institutions. It is now possible to bring students and professors together in virtual learning networks. Also, as information becomes accessible from anywhere, the importance of physical libraries will diminish. It is clear that universities must adapt, or risk becoming irrelevant.

A New Model of Collaborative Learning The conventional model of education is based on the transmission of information and knowledge from the teacher to the students. A fundamentally new model of collaborative learning is beginning to emerge to replace the traditional model. This new model is driven by society’s changing needs, and is enabled by

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Buchal, R. O. (1996, June), Engineering Education In The 21st Century Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6026

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