June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Technological Literacy Constituent Committee
12.1478.1 - 12.1478.16
The Untapped Student Goldmine Abstract
Many university programs in the liberal arts, humanities, and sciences depend on general education credits to maintain viability. As a consequence, instructors in these programs have often designed general education courses to attract students from outside their discipline. Such courses serve the dual purpose of introducing students to a subject they might otherwise never learn about, as well as generating credit hours for the department. Along these lines, a set of general education courses based on the book How Things Work, by physics professor Louis Bloomfield, have proven to be extremely popular nationwide. Although Bloomfield’s book uses popular devices such as refrigerators, automobile engines, flashlights, and microwave ovens to teach the concepts of physics, Oakland University has successfully experimented with using the book as a primary vehicle to teach basic concepts involving engineering. Either approach, of course, results in an increase in the technological literacy of the liberal arts and humanities students who take the course.
In this study, thirty randomly selected U.S. schools with accredited engineering programs were examined. Thirty-seven general education physics courses designed primarily for non-science majors were found to have enrollments totaling 5,711 students, in contrast with only four commonly taught engineering outreach courses, with enrollments totaling only 435 students. (Most of these students were enrolled in two popular courses taught at Boise State University.) Ultimately, it appears engineering schools could greatly expand their general education outreach by co- opting some of the techniques used by physics departments, as has been done at Boise State and the authors’ own university. An increase in engineering outreach courses nationwide could strengthen engineering programs by cost-effectively increasing the number of credit hours taught; provide positive public relations for the discipline of engineering; serve as a much-needed recruiting conduit for engineering schools; and make a dramatic difference in the technological literacy of humanities and liberal arts students in the United States.
Historically, engineering students on college campuses have been viewed as boring, dull, and uncreative.1-9 This negative perception of engineers and engineering, in fact, is thought to play a role in the difficulty many schools experience in their attempts to build enrollment.10-13 In part in response to such criticisms, as well as similar criticisms about engineers from the workplace, ABET, the accrediting agency for schools of engineering and technology in the United States, has attempted to broaden the training engineering students receive.14, 15 Consequently, accrediting criteria now specify that engineering studies must have training involving a number of areas, including professional and ethical responsibility; an ability to communicate effectively; an understanding of the impact of engineering solutions in a global,
Oakley, B., & Smith, L., & Chang, Y. D. (2007, June), The Untapped Student Goldmine Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1597
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