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Supporting Student Attainment and Management of Competencies in a Transdisciplinary Degree Program

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Academic Programs

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Amy S. Van Epps Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Amy S. Van Epps is an associate professor of Library Science and Engineering Librarian at Purdue University. She has extensive experience providing instruction for engineering and technology students, including Purdue’s first-year engineering program. Her research interests include finding effective methods for integrating information literacy knowledge into the undergraduate engineering curriculum. Prof. Van Epps has a BA in engineering science from Lafayette College, her MSLS from Catholic University of America, a M.Eng. in Industrial Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently working on her PhD in Engineering Education at Purdue.

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Iryna Ashby Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Iryna Ashby is a Ph.D student in the Learning Design and Technology Program at Purdue University with the research interests focused on program evaluation and self-regulated learning. She is also part of the program evaluation team for the Transdisciplinary Studies in Technology at Purdue Polytechnic aimed to redesign undergraduate student experiences through offering a combination of deep liberal arts experiences with student-driven, hands-on project-based learning.

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Colin M. Gray Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Colin M. Gray is an Assistant Professor at Purdue University in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology and a Faculty Fellow in the Educational Research and Development Incubator. He holds a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University Bloomington, a MEd in Educational Technology from University of South Carolina, and a MA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art & Design. His research focuses on the role of student experience in informing a critical design pedagogy, and the ways in which the pedagogy and underlying studio environment inform the development of design thinking, particularly in relation to critique and professional identity formation. His work crosses multiple disciplines, including engineering education, instructional design and technology, design theory and education, and human-computer interaction.

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Marisa Exter Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Marisa Exter is an Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology in the College of Education at Purdue University. Dr. Exter’s research aims to provide recommendations to improve or enhance university-level design and technology programs (such as Instructional Design, Computer Science, and Engineering). Some of her previous research has focused on software designers’ formal and non-formal educational experiences and use of precedent materials, and experienced instructional designers’ beliefs about design character. These studies have highlighted the importance of cross-disciplinary skills and student engagement in large-scale, real-world projects.

Dr. Exter currently leads an effort to evaluate a new multidisciplinary degree program which provides both liberal arts and technical content through competency-based experiential learning.

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In Fall 2014, a large Midwestern land-grant research university piloted a competency-based model as the foundation for an undergraduate transdisciplinary program focusing on connecting engineering and technology with humanities and social sciences. Students enrolled in this program progress through a set of competencies that require them to master cross-disciplinary and cross-functional skills needed to be successful in a 21st century workplace. Now in its second year, the competency-based program has undergone significant changes that include a more substantial definition of competencies at each of the three levels of competence (developing, emerging, and proficient), scaffolding needed to support students on their path towards gaining competencies, and significant mentoring by faculty, TAs, and professional advisers to support competency attainment.

In this paper, we will share challenges and discoveries made by the faculty throughout the first two years of the novel Competency-Based Education (CBE) experience, including a reflection on how such experiences impacted modifications of the CBE model from Year 1 to Year 2, the ways in which the program supported individual attainment and management of competencies by students, and the value of the mentorship program in supporting student-driven learning paths. We will also share insights into students’ perceptions of the benefits, challenges, and frustrations of being part of this pilot program based on interview and survey data provided by the 33 members of the initial cohort. This overview of the ways this program supported students in attaining competencies through coursework, individual mentoring, and scaffolding may be instructive as institutions seek to bring CBE to scale and increase holistic student learning for the 21st century.

Van Epps, A. S., & Ashby, I., & Gray, C. M., & Exter, M. (2016, June), Supporting Student Attainment and Management of Competencies in a Transdisciplinary Degree Program Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25977

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