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Lifelong Learning in an Engineering Communication Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Assessing, Expanding, and Innovating Information Literacy

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

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Paper Authors


S. Norma Godavari University of Manitoba

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Dr. Anne Parker, is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Engineering Professional Practice and Engineering Education in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Manitoba, where she has taught Engineering Communication for over 30 years. She also has served as a consultant to individuals and groups in other communication areas, such as medicine, law, and business and industry. Her research interests include collaborative projects in engineering; the synergy between engineering design and communication design and, recently, engineering students’ self-reported confidence levels in writing and speaking, teamwork and lifelong learning. Dr. Parker is a Life Senior Member of IEEE.

S. Norma Godavari, MLIS, has been the Engineering Librarian at the University of Manitoba, well, since a goodly number of years now (+30) and never fails to be amazed at the creativity and imagination of our engineering students. We continue to learn from each other all through their formal education and even beyond sometimes. She has become involved as the liaison librarian in the Engineering Faculty, especially in the Engineering Communication course, teaching and assisting in the evolution of the course, as well as with Mechanical and Civil capstone and thesis courses. Norma is on a research leave this year.

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Anne E. Parker University of Manitoba

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Anne Parker is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Engineering Professional Practice & Engineering Education, Faculty of Engineering, University of Manitoba, and has taught engineering communication in the faculty for over 30 years. Her earlier research has focused on collaborative projects in engineering and problem-solving in communication and design. More recently, she participated in a national study of writing assignments in undergraduate classes, including engineering, and a study of engineering students' levels of confidence in their communication and lifelong learning skills. The current study on lifelong learning and information literacy has grown out of this work as well as earlier work she conducted with Norma Godavari.

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Lifelong Learning in an Engineering Communications Course

Good communication skills increase in importance over an engineer’s lifetime, from student to retirement; they are the basis for grades in all courses to promoting the profession as well as promoting an engineer’s company. ABET and CEAB accreditation standards recognize the importance of, and the need for, good communication skills and have accepted that learning over a lifetime should never stop. ABET standard 3i and CEAB’s 3.1.12 state this need. The communication and lifelong learning standards parallel the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) standards for information literacy as well as encompassing Kuhlthau’s six stages in an information search process. We have incorporated these standards into the information literacy rubrics for a second-year communication course, Engineering Communication 2040.

The Engineering Communication is a team-based course that challenges students to research, write and illustrate a significant research project on an Engineering topic. As members of a team, students must learn the critical skills of project management conflict resolution and effective group interactions. Now added to these skills is the need for lifelong learning for, in order to fulfill these demands, we have integrated information literacy into the course; specifically, by having the engineering librarian offer four lectures on researching a topic, avoiding plagiarizing, citing sources and navigating the databases. She also assesses their search strategies, bibliographies and evaluates the quality of the sources while the communications professor evaluates the quality of the content and the writing of the report itself and the annotations. Each of these is integral to the other. We likewise have introduced reflective learning practices into some of the assignments and these, too, are evaluated.

The half-life of engineering information and, by extension, an engineer’s degree, is between 2.5-5 years, so, even before graduating, students need the drive to keep learning. So, because the professional engineering organizations make communication and lifelong learning opportunities a strong part of their mandate, we are able to awaken the students’ desire to keep on learning by introducing them to practicing engineers who introduce ways to keep current in their careers; by instantiating reflective learning into the course; and by promoting the critical importance of lifelong learning in their professional lives.

Godavari, S. N., & Parker, A. E. (2020, June), Lifelong Learning in an Engineering Communication Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34927

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