June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.1269.1 - 13.1269.14
The Technology World is Changing Rapidly. Can Higher Education Match the Pace?
New electronics technology has been the driver for huge changes in all sectors of business over the past three decades. As more functions have been integrated on silicon, the amount of component-level design, assembly and test has decreased and with it the need for large numbers of engineers and technicians with these manual skills. Instead, low-cost assemblies are now produced in relatively few locations but they feed a rapidly developing global market for electronic systems applications. The paper considers the new skills that the higher educational system has to deliver for future jobs. The changes impact all engineering education sectors but the two-year schools are in the front line. A new NSF-funded program has been launched to address the issues.
Pittsburgh, We Have a Problem
If a group of 1988 graduates were to sit in an introductory electronics class in many higher education establishments today, they would find that very little had changed. Students still learn manual circuit analysis and how to solder discrete components, op amps and logic gates on simple circuit boards to create basic electronic functions. Bipolar transistors are given more emphasis than MOS and any computer-aided design and analysis of circuits is very much linked to examples that can also be done manually. If challenged, the justification is that these hallowed courses are vital to provide students with “the fundamentals” of the subject. Commercial products and their applications may change but the fundamentals never will. Hence there is no need for curriculum change. There are always good intentions to treat current (ie 1990s) technology in the later courses if there is time – and of course, there never is enough time. This outlook prevails across all higher education but the implications are most severe in two-year schools since they don’t have the luxury of using upper division and graduate-level classes to introduce current technology and its associated skills.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the validity of this line of argument. It is the starting point for a new NSF-funded curriculum development initiative that will be discussed later in the paper. However, the underlying causation factors are sufficiently profound to justify their presentation as a stand-alone paper. They have massive implications for changes in program content and structure so the intent of this paper is to layout the issues and promote wide-ranging discussion that will lead to a community of interest to support all relevant program change initiatives. The authors represent a range of academic, publishing and industry interests but they have a common commitment to understanding the change agents that should drive curriculum planning. It has been a recurring theme at past ASEE conferences 1, 2 and this paper is intended to further stimulate the dialog but more from the perspective of 2-year colleges.
Robertson, J., & Frenzel, L., & Hyder, J., & Lesiecki, M., & McGlew, T. (2008, June), The Technology World Is Changing Rapidly Can Higher Education Match The Pace? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3629
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