June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Electrical and Computer
14.794.1 - 14.794.12
INTRACOURSES: SYNERGIES IN COMBINING TWO COURSES TO MAKE A NEW ONE
We describe a new tool for curriculum design. By carefully choosing two traditional course subject areas that have a disciplinary thread in common, trimming both to their essential core topics using program outcomes as a guide, then combining the results, we create an “intracourse.” We give criteria for evaluating potential intracourse constituent pairs. We discuss alternative approaches to realizing the combination. Intracourses can be used to address several difficult curriculum design challenges. Rapid technological advances routinely create demands for new technical competencies within fixed engineering curriculum boundaries. Current trends toward increasing general education requirements reduce available time and other resources for specialized engineering courses. Intracourses allow for novel new curriculum design solutions in such constrained environments. Each intracourse also provides engineering students with direct experience in exploring the boundary between two traditional disciplines. Our methodology for formulating intracourses naturally provides measurement opportunities for assessment of program outcomes. Thus, a single intracourse can be designed to accomplish more than the sum of its parts. We give examples of intracourses formulated over the last several years along with successes and pitfalls encountered.
1. Introduction—Change In Engineering Programs
Relentless change characterizes undergraduate curricula in the engineering disciplines that are subject to rapid technology advances. Entirely new technologies appear regularly. Moore’s Law—the empirical observation that the number of transistors that fit in a given chip area roughly doubles every two years —leads to dramatic shifts in basic assumptions. What was impossible only a few years ago becomes routine and therefore newly accessible to undergraduates. What was routine becomes a commodity and therefore perhaps not worthy of study. We need look no farther than Global Positioning System technology for a current example.
The educational environment also exerts forces for change. Modern assessment and continuous improvement processes allow constituents of academic programs to state their needs and wants directly and explicitly.3,4,5,6 While immensely constructive, these inputs only add to the long list of tasks confronting curriculum designers. Students also have their say. They deserve high quality, high value educational experiences, a fact underscored by ever-increasing costs of university education. Yet, perceptions of “high quality” and “high value” are changing incessantly. What was recently a cutting-edge and relevant topic or exercise easily becomes old hat in a new context. Engineering and technology sector employment prospects shift as well, compelling the academic programs that serve them to follow suit. The contemporary need to make engineering appealing to young people, especially to women and minority students, only adds new change forces to this already complicated mixture.
Ressler, E., & Miller, M., & Chewar, C., & Blair, J. (2009, June), Intracourses: Synergies In Combining Two Courses To Make A New One Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5228
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