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Tools for Transformation – How Engineering Education Benefits from Interactive e-Learning and the Humanities

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Reflective & Critical Pedagogies

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1586.1 - 26.1586.29



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Paper Authors


Katarina Larsen KTH - Royal Institute of Technology

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Katarina Larsen, researcher at KTH - Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. Experience from teaching and course development in engineering education and development of graduate course in Organizational Theory and History. Ongoing research interests include studies of institutional change, science and innovation policy, and sustainability in engineering education.

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Johan Gustav Gärdebo KTH Royal Institute of Technology

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Johan Gärdebo is a PhD Candidate in History of Technology and Environment, studying how technological systems influence society's view on environment. His research relates to how remote sensing satellites were developed in Sweden and Europe in late 20th century, how these were conceptualized and who had the power of defining the satellites' application.

Johan is also part of developing active student participation in Sweden, and have given several reports and keynotes on the topic.

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Instruments for Transformation – How Engineering Education benefits from interactive e-learning and the HumanitiesThis paper engages with how to construct means for student activation, usinganalytical models, e-learning and web tools in engineering education. Learningrequires different levels of understanding and means to appropriate and formulateknowledge. However, peer instruction and student participation require a degree offacilitation, which is a role the teacher needs to analyse and develop before studentscan be demanded to demonstrate increased participation in course content, feedbackand design. The specific context of student learning discussed here is based onexperiences from a course for international engineering students at KTH RoyalInstitute of Technology, Sweden. The course aim is to train students in criticallyanalyzing the role of national identities, social- and technological engineering andpolitics in shaping Swedish society. One challenge is to enable engineering studentsto develop skills in critical thinking by engaging with texts from social sciences andhumanities dealing with topics formulated in the course aim. Reading, writing anddiscussing texts on historical and contemporary examples are used to attain learningoutcomes, relating to both course content as well as practical skills of criticalreflection, reasoning and developing arguments in writing. This study draws onexperiences from changing a course previously relying on attendance towardsencouraging and explicitly rewarding student contribution to each other’s learning.The broader aim have been for students to learn to think, read, discuss and writeanalytically, while using web-tools in combination with seminar exercises to increasestudent interaction in these processes and time on task. While these skills areinstrumental, we argue that they are valuable for students to engage in interactivelearning of a more transformative character where students benefit from learningthrough reciprocal questioning, joint learning and peer-instruction. Source material isgathered using course evaluations and feedback from students at lectures andseminars. Some early results based on experiences from the seminar activities, wherestudents wrote a text relating to an analytical question and thereafter made commentson a fellow classmate’s text, showed that the students gained enough in-depthunderstanding to present an argument when commenting on a classmates’ text in thesame topic. Students experienced working with analytical questions and peers assupportive for engaging with topics previously perceived to be challenging. Otherstudents were exposed to texts with some basic components missing (defining keyconcepts etc.) providing challenges in formulating constructive comments andsuggestions for improvements.To conclude, the implication of using analytical models, e-learning and web tools inengineering education is instrumental for student activation in the sense that studentsacquire skills for active reading and writing. However the use of analytical questionsand reciprocal questioning in seminar activities and web forums prompts newchannels for interactive learning between students and a more transformative prospectof relating skills from social sciences and humanities with engineering practices insociety.

Larsen, K., & Gärdebo, J. G. (2015, June), Tools for Transformation – How Engineering Education Benefits from Interactive e-Learning and the Humanities Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24922

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015