In the entire history of engineering education, the next five years will be the most crucial. Through the Philippine Technology Council (PTC), the Philippines will apply for membership in the Washington Accord. And if all goes well, accreditation of engineering schools will commence giving opportunity to Filipino engineering graduates the chance to enjoy the mobility of employment.
It will be a period of major changes, which the New Era University-College of Engineering and Technology (NEU-CET) must be able to properly address so that its graduates can be prepared for future challenges and adapt to the fast-changing environment.
The Washington Accord’s major requirement for membership is through non-government intervention, thereby, reducing the government’s role (CHED, PRC) in engineering education. Thus, the burden of formulating the policies for engineering education will be passed on to a non-government organization and the professional organization of each engineering program.
Moreover, industry practitioners will be given a strong voice in the formulation of the programs and educational objectives of each engineering program. If and when this happens, the bench mark for a world class engineering institution will be clearly defined and the reward for attaining the bench mark will be huge and enormous. The recognition that the Washington Accord bestows to an accredited university will give graduates of said university the opportunity to practice their profession in all signatory countries.
Like most engineering problems, if identified, early solutions and corrective measures can easily be accomplished. In fact, in the NEU’s case, problems have already been identified and solutions are ready to be implemented. What is needed is just a timetable to put them into operation. But in light of these new developments, there is a need to review and adjust the planned courses of action the NEU-CET is planning to take.
The NEU-CET is now faced with the challenge of not only keeping at par with the major Philippine engineering universities but also at par with the world’s best, which is one of our mission and vision.
As such, there is a need for the NEU-CET to take immediate measures in, among other areas: the following: industry linkages and curriculum development.
The NEU-CET should prioritize the establishment of linkages with the industry. The University must tap its alumni in the industry and in the future set up linkages with big corporations outside the country.
It may be noted that as early as the 18th century, linkages with partner institutions have been identified to be a major factor in the development of the global mobility of engineers. (Integrating the International Education of Engineers in the Curriculum, the European Experience, Jean Michel, 2006) This is a necessary step so that the NEU-CET could be updated with new developments in the industry. In addition, collaborative projects to jointly solve actual industry problems must be initiated to benefit the University.
In their paper “The Context of Engineering Education” by Edward F Crawley, et al published in 2007, the authors noted that beginning in the late 70s and early 80s, and increasingly in the 90s, industry representatives began expressing concerns about skills and attitudes possessed by graduating engineers. They also articulated the need for a broader view that gives greater emphasis to the skills actually used by engineers.
Only through strong linkages with the industry and experiential learning will the NEU produce graduates that have skills needed by the industry.
The Washington Accord has listed 12 graduate attributes (The Washington Accord: Principles and Practice of External Engineering Accreditation Systems, 2010, Robin King). These are:
1. Engineering knowledge
2. Problem analysis
3. Design/solution development
5. Modern tool usage
6. The engineer in society
7. Environment and sustainability
9. Individual and team work
10. Communication skills
11. Project management and finance
12. Lifelong learning
These graduate objectives can be achieved by designing an outcomes-based engineering curriculum. It is significant to note that implementing the outcomes-based education (OBE) is one of the requirements for the Washington Accord accreditation. Since this is the long term goal of the NEU, the shift to the OBE should start immediately, and even if the industry linkages are not yet fully established, the revised curriculum slated for school year 2012-13 should be partially OBE.
The CDIO Initiative
To further reply to the industry’s needs for the education of engineering students, the CDIO (conceiving, designing, implementing, and operating) will be used as the context of engineering education. As Robin King emphasized in the seminar “Designing Outcomes Based Engineering Curricula Throughout the World” held from May 20 to 21, 2010 at the Seameo Innotech in Quezon City, the CDIO initiative collaborators have now adopted this method as the framework of their curriculum planning and outcomes based assessment.
As a backgrounder, the CDIO is “an engineering initiative that was formally founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1990s to redevelop engineering education to meet the needs of the industry. Its major focus is on active and experiential learning techniques, such as group work, open ended problems on assignments and design-build projects that require students to have active roles in their education”. (Reforming Engineering Education, The CDIO Initiative, http://www.cdio/org/tools/cdio_brief.pdf)
In 2000, three Swedish universities joined the MIT to create the CDIO Initiative and develop a syllabus and educational standards that could be applied to any engineering school. To date, over 50 leading universities in the US, Europe, Canada, Britain, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand have formed a collaborative effort to develop and implement the CDIO model worldwide.
In the book “Rethinking Engineering Education: the CDIO Approach by Edward Crawley, et al published in 2007”, the authors enumerated the CDIO’s three overall goals: To educate students who are able to:
1. Master a deeper working knowledge of technical fundamentals.
2. Lead in the creation and operation of new products, processes, and systems.
3. Understand the importance and strategic impact of research and technological development on society.
Crawley wrote “they seek to develop programs that are educational, effective and more exciting to students, attracting them to engineering, retaining them in the program and in the profession”.
The CDIO is a comprehensive program that has 12 standards to assure that the initiative reaches these goals. (The CDIO Collaborative, davewisler.com/page92.html) These are:
1. The context. This is the adoption of the principle that product, process and system lifecycle developments and deployment are the context for engineering education.
2. Learning outcomes. The learning outcomes detail what students should know and be able to do at the end of their engineering program.
3. Integrated curriculum. The curriculum is designed with mutually supporting disciplinary courses that include an explicit plan to integrate personal and interpersonal skills and product, process and system building skills. These skills should not be considered an addition to an already full curriculum but an integral part of it.
4. Introduction to engineering. An introductory course is offered that provides students with the framework to understand engineering practice in the context of CDIO.
5. Design-Implement Experience. The curriculum includes design-implement (build) experiences.
6. Engineering workspaces. Engineering workspaces and laboratories provide the physical environment to support and encourage hands-on learning of product, process, system and social building skills concurrently with learning disciplinary knowledge.
7. Integrated learning experience. This provides the pedagogical environment that fosters learning of disciplinary knowledge simultaneously interwoven with personal, product, process and social skills.
8. Active learning. This is teaching and learning based on active experiential learning methods that engage students directly in thinking and problem solving activities.
9. Enhancing of faculty skills competence. Many engineering professors tend to be experts in the research and knowledge base of their respective disciplines but have only limited, if any, experience in the practice of engineering. The CDIO program provides support and training for faculty to improve their competence in personal and interpersonal skills and process, product and system building skills.
10. Enhancing of faculty teaching competence. The CDIO program also provides support for faculty to improve their competence in integrated learning experiences, in using experiential learning methods and in assessing student learning.
11. Learning assessment. This is the measure of the extent to which each student achieves specified learning outcomes.
12. Program evaluation. This process evaluates the university program against these 12 standards and provides feedback to students, faculty and other stakeholders for the purpose of continuous improvement.
These standards define the distinguishing features of a CDIO program, serve as guidelines for educational program reform and evaluation, create benchmarks and goals with worldwide application, and provide a framework for continuous improvement. (Rethinking Engineering Education: the CDIO Approach, Edward Crawley, Johan Malmqvist, Soren Osltund, and Doris Brodeur, 2007)
The recommendations presented above may be an over simplification of the NEU-CET’s current situation. But, it is fully understood that whatever directions will be taken, it must still factor in the CHED and the PRC’s policies--the CHED for having the administrative authority over colleges and universities, i.e. minimum requirements for subjects and laboratories; and the PRC for having the power to determine the topics or coverage of the board examinations. Nevertheless, the NEU-CET should move towards the direction that would prepare the University for the Washington Accord accreditation. As educators, it is our responsibility to address this effort in order to prepare our students for future challenges.
It will be a difficult period of transition, having to consider the different objectives of the various stakeholders. In the final analysis, the OBE and the CDIO will be the tools to propel us to the Washington Accord accreditation.
If these initial steps are successful, then the NEU-CET will be confident that its capital expenditures for laboratories and library, and investment in faculty development will not be put to waste.
Crawley, E, Malmqvist, J, Ostlund, S & Brodeur, D., Rethinking Engineering Education: the CDIO Approach, Springer, New York, 2007.
Michel, J., Integrating the International Education of Engineers in the Curriculum, the European Experience, 2006.
Rosen, M., Engineering Education: Future Trends and Advances, Canada, 2000.
Reforming Engineering Education: The CDIO Initiative. Available at web.mit.edu/aeroastro/academics/cdio.html.
The CDIO Collaborative. Available at davewisler.com/page92.html.
Crawley, E., The Context of Engineering Education. Proceedings of the 4th International CDIO Conference, Hogeschool Gent, Gent, Belgium, June 16-19, 2008.
King, R., The Washington Accord: Principles and Practice of External Engineering Accreditation Systems. Presented during the seminar on Designing Outcomes Based Engineering Curricula throughout the World, May 20 to 21, 2010, Quezon City, Philippines.