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Ifoundry: Engineering Curriculum Reform Without Tears

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Conference

2008 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Institutional and Curricular Reform

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

8

Page Numbers

13.684.1 - 13.684.8

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/3973

Download Count

49

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Paper Authors

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David Goldberg University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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David E. Goldberg is Jerry S. Dobrovolny Distinguished Professor in Entrepreneurial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Andreas Cangellaris University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Andreas C. Cangellaris is M. E. Van Valkenburg Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Michael Loui University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Michael Loui is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Raymond Price University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Raymond L. Price is William Harrison Severns Chair for Human Behavior in the College of Engineering and Interim Head of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Bruce Litchfield Univ Of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

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J. Bruce Litchfield is Professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Assistant Dean in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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

iFoundry: Engineering Curriculum Reform Without Tears

Introduction

The National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE’s) 2020 reports1,2 have identified the knowledge and skills needed by the engineer of the 21st century and the large-scale curriculum reform necessary to educate these new professionals. Blank-slate curriculum reform efforts,3 innovations from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) curriculum coalitions,4,5 and even a brand new engineering college6 have bootstrapped models for significant and effective curriculum innovation that offer a variety of plausible avenues for change. Yet, despite significant progress in outlining appropriate changes and widespread agreement that change is necessary, many engineering curricula appear to be locked in a cold war time warp with incremental, grudging modifications coming at the margins, if at all.7

This paper suggests that the organizational processes by which curriculum changes are vetted and made are key factors inhibiting effective change. In particular, the normal democratic processes of curriculum approval invoke a kind of educational NIMBY (not in my backyard) problem in which changes are fine with individual professor as long as they are not demanded in courses that particular professor teaches or cares about. The inevitable logrolling results in a coalition favoring the status quo to block changes that many know are needed.

The paper discusses efforts to overcome such organizational resistance through the creation of a grassroots interdepartmental collaborative pilot unit of students and faculty to test, implement, and assess needed changes. The pilot called iFoundry, short for the Illinois Foundry for Tech Vision and Leadership, was established in the summer of 2007. This paper discusses the origins of iFoundry, its progress to date, and the theory and practice of its implementation. A key notion is that the usual method of approving untested curriculum changes goes against the engineering grain, and that a pilot unit, especially one that combines the efforts of students and faculty from a number of different departments, is likely to test, implement, and then institutionalize changes more effectively than the traditional approach to curriculum change.

The paper starts by reviewing the context of curriculum change in 2008. It continues by discussing the lack of diffusion of tested curriculum reforms that resulted from the NSF coalitions and elsewhere and a number of organizational responses to the problems of change. The paper continues by examining two reasons why curriculum is so hard to change given the organizational processes of vetting and approving curriculum change. It then outlines the iFoundry idea of establishing a collaborative, interdepartmental pilot unit and six key elements of iFoundry’s systems design. The paper continues with a brief report on progress to date and a call for open source curriculum development and the formation of a global xFoundry coalition of pilot units that subscribe to the iFoundry principles.

Flat Worlds and the 21st Century Engineering Curriculum The current engineering curriculum was formed in the crucible of the cold war.8 Since that time, radical changes in transportation, communication, and computer technology9 leave us in a very

Goldberg, D., & Cangellaris, A., & Loui, M., & Price, R., & Litchfield, B. (2008, June), Ifoundry: Engineering Curriculum Reform Without Tears Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3973

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