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Vertical Integration Of The Undergraduate Learning Experience

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.625.1 - 3.625.9



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Paper Authors

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Mark Schulz

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DeRome Dunn

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Abhijit Duraphe

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Samuel Owusu-Ofori

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Ajit Kelkar

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Devdas Pai

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Richard Layton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2520

Vertical Integration of the Undergraduate Learning Experience Devdas Pai, Ajit Kelkar, Richard A. Layton, Mark Schulz, DeRome Dunn, Samuel Owusu-Ofori and Abhijit Duraphe North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC

Abstract In progressing through an engineering curriculum, students acquire familiarity with the use of modern computational tools for modeling, analyzing, and designing physical systems. Instructors put a lot of effort into identifying and implementing appropriate software packages for augmenting classroom material. Students undergo steep learning curves, often encountering three or more disparate packages in the course of a semester. They gain a reasonable degree of comfort with these tools, only to have new ones introduced the following semester; and the cycle repeats. To significantly reduce the burden to students of repetitively learning new software packages, a consistent computing environment can be introduced throughout the curriculum. Such an environment must be sufficiently versatile, robust, and powerful as well as extensively used by practicing engineers. While certain highly specialized functionality might be lost by eschewing specialized software, the students profit by gaining fluency and depth in using a general-purpose package. Moreover, it becomes possible to provide a vertically integrated learning experience, where experienced students can demonstrate to less-experienced students how their use of the very same package has progressively grown more sophisticated. This experiment in vertical integration is still in its early stages. However, based on student feedback, this approach is yielding the benefits of developing in senior students a confidence in their ability to communicate, work in teams, and mentor their juniors. Lower-class students are realizing the relevance of the fundamental courses to their career goals and the importance of developing their skills in computing, modeling, and analysis.

Introduction As undergraduate students progress through an engineering curriculum, they are expected to acquire competence in lower-level courses in order to succeed in upper-level courses. Unfortunately, students do not always recognize the importance of retaining skills learned in one course for application in subsequent courses. Faculty members contribute to this break in continuity by collaborating in only a limited way with instructors of lower-level and higher-level courses on specific topics and tools that if emphasized would provide students with a better integrated experience. This is particularly true of computational tools.

Instructors can expend considerable effort augmenting their courses with suitable computational software. Students undergo steep learning curves, often encountering three or more different software packages in a semester. They gain a degree of comfort with these tools only to have new ones introduced the following semester. It often happens that tools used in one course are not used in subsequent courses. The possibility that this expenditure of effort might be reduced raises the following question: what manner of cooperative effort can faculty implement over a sequence of courses to help students develop their cognitive and engineering skills in the most efficient manner? In response, the authors propose a form of vertical integration.

Schulz, M., & Dunn, D., & Duraphe, A., & Owusu-Ofori, S., & Kelkar, A., & Pai, D., & Layton, R. (1998, June), Vertical Integration Of The Undergraduate Learning Experience Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7519

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