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Systems Engineering Classes Can Be Fun: What Faculty Can Do to Keep Students Engaged

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Systems Engineering Curriculum and Programs

Tagged Divisions

Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, and Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1229.1 - 25.1229.13



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Paper Authors


Adeel Khalid Southern Polytechnic State University

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Adeel Khalid, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of systems engineering, Southern Polytechnic State University. Office: 678-915-7241; Fax: 678-915-5527; Web:

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Systems Engineering Classes can be Fun – What Faculty can do to keep Students EngagedAbstractIn this research, the author explores a few key students centered active learning techniques thatare applicable in core systems engineering classes. Currently there are few universities across thecountry where systems engineering program is offered at the undergraduate level. At thecampuses where it is offered, systems engineering is a rather new discipline. The core systemsengineering classes may not require the mathematical rigor expected in some of the otherengineering disciplines. At the undergraduate level, students cannot often appreciate the value ofsystems engineering. One downside of this is the fact that it may make the systems classes lessattractive to undergraduate students. This gives the instructors a great reason to apply some ofthe active learning techniques. In this paper, the author investigates some of the techniques andmethodologies used in other engineering and especially non-engineering disciplines that can beborrowed and applied to systems engineering. There have been numerous efforts in variousdisciplines where college and university professors have been challenged to develop instructionalmethods that transform students from passive listeners to active learners [1]. In the author’sexperience, introducing such techniques in a highly conceptual engineering class is ‘easier saidthan done.’Active learning is in short, anything that students do in a classroom other than merely passivelylistening to an instructor’s lecture. This includes everything from listening practices which helpthe students to absorb what they hear, to short writing exercises in which students react to lecturematerial, to complex group exercises in which students apply course material to ‘real life’situations and / or to new problems [2]. In this paper, the low and high risk active learningstrategies, specific to systems engineering classes are explored. The importance of activelearning is emphasized. Some of the obstacles and barriers that prevent faculty from using activelearning strategies are discovered and their remedies are explored.The active learning techniques explored in this research are inspired from a variety of disciplinesincluding mathematics, language, arts, and law. Few of the techniques are summarized andcompared across disciplines in table 1.Table 1: Comparison of active learning techniques across disciplines Engineering Mathematics Languages Arts LawMuddiest Point / X X XClarification PauseGroup Quizzes X X XUse of Props X XIncentives (Candy X XQuestions)Mind Breaks X XOwnership of class X XWait Time X XEvaluate each other’s work X X XCooperative Groups X X XGames X X X XStudent Generated Content X X XChanging Seating XarrangementProblem Solving / Writing X XPuzzles / Paradoxes X XStudent Polling X XDebates X XThe goal is to map these across disciplines to qualitatively and quantitatively explore andidentify which techniques work best in general for systems engineering undergraduate students.The end result will be the identification of the top few techniques applicable to systemsengineering students.References: 1. Bonwell, C. Charles, ‘Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom,’ Active learning workshops, Last visited, 10/4/11 2. Paulson, R. Donald, Faust, L. Jennifer, ‘Active learning for college classroom,’, Last updated 12/3/10

Khalid, A. (2012, June), Systems Engineering Classes Can Be Fun: What Faculty Can Do to Keep Students Engaged Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21986

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