Asee peer logo

WIP: Development of an Interdisciplinary MOOC that Introduces the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Learning Experiences

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

visit author page

Dr. Haolin Zhu earned her BEng in Engineering Mechanics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and her Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University, with a focus on computational solid mechanics. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Zhu joined Arizona State University as a full time Lecturer and became a part of the freshman engineering education team in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. She currently holds the title of Senior Lecturer and is the recipient of the Fulton Outstanding Lecturer Award. She focuses on designing the curriculum and teaching in the freshman engineering program. She is also involved in the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program, the ASU ProMod project, the Engineering Projects in Community Service program, the Engineering Futures program, the Global Freshman Academy/Earned Admission Program, and the ASU Kern Project. Dr. Zhu also designs and teaches courses in mechanical engineering at ASU, including Statics, Mechanics of Materials, Mechanical Design, Mechanism Analysis and Design, Finite Element Analysis, etc. She was a part of the team that designed a largely team and activity based online Introduction to Engineering course. She has also co-developed two unique MOOCs, Introduction to Engineering and Perspectives on Grand Challenges for Engineering, for the Global Freshman Academy/ASU Earned Admission Program. Her Ph.D. research focuses on multi-scale multiphase modeling and numerical analysis of coupled large viscoelastic deformation and fluid transport in swelling porous materials, but she is currently interested in various topics in the field of engineering education, such as innovative teaching pedagogies for increased retention and student motivation; innovations in non-traditional delivery methods, incorporation of the Entrepreneurial Mindset in the engineering curriculum and its impact.

visit author page


Amy Trowbridge Arizona State University

visit author page

Amy Trowbridge is a Senior Lecturer in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University and is the Director of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) at ASU. Through the GCSP, Amy aims to prepare students to become globally and socially aware engineers who will lead future efforts to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Amy also helps new schools to develop GCSPs as part of the NAE GCSP Proposal review committee. She is also actively involved in the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), focused on students’ development of entrepreneurial mindset through GCSP and curriculum. Amy recently received the 2019 KEEN Rising Star award for her efforts in encouraging students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Amy has contributed to the development of a new hands-on multidisciplinary introduction to engineering course and a unique introduction to engineering MOOC. She is interested in curricular and co-curricular experiences that broaden students’ perspectives and enhance student learning, and values students' use of Digital Portfolios to reflect on and showcase their accomplishments. Amy earned her Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Arizona State University (ASU), and is currently pursuing her PhD in Engineering Education Systems and Design.

visit author page


Jill L. Roter Arizona State University

visit author page

Jill Roter is a senior instructional design specialist at EdPlus @ Arizona State University, where she works on complex course design projects to make college credit available at scale for students worldwide, and provide a pathway for admission to the university. With more than twenty years experience at the intersection of digital learning, content development, and accessibility, her work reflects her commitment to identifying, evaluating, and implementing new avenues for teaching and learning, regardless of ability. Her previous roles have ranged from online producer and editor to educator and administrator in support of faculty, writers, students, and veterans at organizations such as WNET/Thirteen, Macworld Magazine, the VA, Columbia University, NYU, and CUNY. She holds a master’s in special education with an emphasis on orientation and mobility (a division of rehabilitation for persons who are blind or visually impaired) from San Francisco State University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Work-in-Progress: Development of an Interdisciplinary MOOC that Introduces the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering

This Work-in-Progress paper describes the development of an interdisciplinary course, Perspectives on Grand Challenges for Engineering, for the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) environment, focused on exploring the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering and related global challenges. This course, based on an on-ground course offered at Arizona State University (ASU), is designed to also help students to develop the interdisciplinary systems perspective and entrepreneurial mindset they need to solve the complex global challenges presented. This course fuses engineering and the social sciences, asking students to explore the interactions between society and technology including the influences of human behavior, culture, ethics, and policy. The on-ground version of the course is currently offered to engineering students in the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program at ASU. Developing this MOOC involved re-designing and re-imagining the on-ground active learning, discussion-based course to address the challenges and opportunities of a broader audience in an online environment.

The MOOC introduces global challenges related to the four themes represented in the NAE’s 21st century engineering vision: “Continuation of life on the planet, making our world more sustainable, secure, healthy, and joyful” [1]. Within each theme (Sustainability, Health, Security, and Joy of Living), the course provides students with opportunities to actively explore specific challenges facing developing and developed communities as well as current research efforts that aim to address some of these challenges. Several different types of activities have been designed to help students explore the social, cultural, political, economic, ethical, and environmental factors that could affect the development and implementation of new technologies to address the challenges. Examples of such activities include case study discussions, role-play based simulations, debate, design, pros and cons lists, mind mapping, and choose your own adventure. Expert talks feature faculty members from various institutions talking about their research work related to different challenges within each theme.Throughout the course, students also work on a project involving Entrepreneurially-Minded-Learning (EML), where they identify an opportunity to create value related to one or more of the four themes introduced, perform needs analysis, imagine and develop a futuristic solution to address the needs, and consider the social implications of their solution if it were developed and implemented. To wrap up the course, students are provided with opportunities to identify desired competencies needed to tackle the challenges, reflect on their own personal interests and goals, and identify next steps they will take toward achieving their goals.

This paper will describe the course goals, structure, and design, focusing on the aforementioned fusion of engineering with fields outside the discipline, which helps cultivate a systems perspective of the Grand Challenges and the engineering solutions that address them. It will also include insights gained from its design, development, and initial offering, and offer recommendations for future work.

References [1] C.D. Mote, Jr., Realizing the vision of the Grand Challenges for Engineering depends on the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, 53rd National Academy of Engineering annual meeting, Oct 8, 2017. Retrieved from

Zhu, H., & Trowbridge, A., & Roter, J. L. (2020, June), WIP: Development of an Interdisciplinary MOOC that Introduces the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35533

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: © 2020 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