June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.866.1 - 11.866.8
Lean education – has its time arrived?
The curriculum for almost any university-level technology program is overloaded. The commitment to keep up to date with industry developments and at the same time cover all the necessary principles of science and engineering means that more and more is being inserted and little is ever taken out. As a response, the paper considers the application of lean manufacturing techniques to education. The metrics to be developed and optimized are extendability, cycle time and reduction of waste. A preliminary analysis of selected courses has been undertaken and implications of the outcomes are discussed.
Rationale for change
This paper outlines a response to a number of hot-button technology education issues. What constitutes Technology and how it all links to an appropriate program of study has been debated for years in every university. It is particularly difficult for the case of electronics where the industry operates on a global scale using more dense chips, sophisticated design tools and a production process that challenges the limits of understanding in many areas of science, engineering and math.
Academic programs strive to give graduates the skills to contribute quickly when they join the industry ranks. However, programs must also provide a good grounding in the basic science and engineering principles and techniques that underpin all applications. The usual solution is to add new material to senior courses and compress the existing topics into the earlier stages of the curriculum. More is added every year but nothing can be removed because it is relevant to the whole corpus of subject knowledge. In addition to these content issues, there are the inevitable administrative fellow-travelers of confusing pre-requisites and enrollment rules. The usual outcome of this process is a program of study that satisfies none of the stakeholders.
There is nothing new in this observation. In the mid 90s, the National Science Foundation sponsored a major analysis of curricula1 that led to some important collaborative programs. However, it was also recognized that it was difficult to absorb these initiatives into the mainstream of technical education2. In spite of these and many similar endeavors, the issues remain and the concern has moved to even higher levels of strategy and international competitiveness3. Undoubtedly, we can no longer take our pre- eminent place in the high-tech world for granted and one component of any solution will certainly be a restructured and enhanced education process.
Leadership by the National Academy of Engineering, the IEEE and industry associations is vital to create the climate for change but the job still has to be done in every department by faculty who share the vision. For the case that forms the basis of this paper, the catalyst for change was a productive ABET review in fall 2004. The process to establish and then execute continuous improvement naturally prompts the question of
Robertson, J., & Dufau, D. (2006, June), Lean Education Has Its Time Arrived? Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1079
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