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The Comprehension Challenge

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Learning, Evaluation, and Assessment

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1174.1 - 23.1174.14



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Paper Authors


Narayanan M. Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

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Professor of Aerospace Engineering. Former chair, Aerospace Division of ASEE. Over 300 papers (120+ refereed), 3 Patents, 15 PhDs and over 160 undergrads guided in research. Team leader, EXROVERT project on learning to innovate on complex systems.

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The Comprehension Challenge  In the near future, tens of thousands of students will be able to take the same course from the same instructor, and have their assignments and tests graded by artificial intelligence software, and thus do all that is needed to earn a grade.    The same course can be taken through tens of thousands of colleges all over the world. Why in this environment should parents pay a hundred thousand dollars or more to educate their child at my institution?  This is the question that faculty members and administrators should be, or are, asking themselves.   The best answer that we see is that depth of comprehension, and value addition,  will be the competitive advantages.    The mechanics of training students will become automated to a much higher degree than is done in most classes today, and students will gain practice in self‐learning to a higher degree than today’s students. The best institutions, teachers and students will then treat this level of capability as the baseline, and build on it to greater capabilities. The new capabilities will include that of venturing across disciplines, and daring to innovate. Both of these endeavors will require understanding technology and gaining physical insight to a greater degree, so that learners can acquire the perspective needed to solve problems quickly in new areas.    The EXTROVERT project at our institution has been building and testing the resources and learning methods needed to reach this new level of capability. As this project closes out its 4‐year resource‐building stage, we are reporting on its status and its continued usage. A core of technical knowledge streams has been installed and is in use. Students are using the resources to solve problems ranging across disciplines. They are learning that they can indeed tackle substantial problems where the level of uncertainty appeared prohibitive in the past. Now they are able to exercise systematic methods to reduce uncertainty and develop viable solutions in areas where they would not have ventured before.   We are also reporting on the issues and experiences of using these new capabilities.  This experience includes the negative one of encountering severe resistance and antipathy from some students, and several administrators.  At the same time, the reaction of the best students is extremely positive, as their work demonstrates capabilities beyond imagination.  

Komerath, N. M. (2013, June), The Comprehension Challenge Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22559

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