The Revolution in Engineering Education
This is the story of how the large research universities have started a revolution in undergraduate engineering education. The roots of the revolution began in the 1980’s when class sizes for the engineering foundation courses started to increase to the point where they could no longer be taught in small 20-30 student classes. This started a trend of grouping small classes together until the class sizes were between 250-300 students. These large impersonal lecture classes are unsuitable for difficult courses like engineering mechanics and has led to many students dropping-out during their sophomore year. In time, they were called ‘weed-out courses’ where only the best students (not necessarily the best engineers) survived.
The faculty also disliked teaching these courses so something had to be done. This seminar describes how one school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), instituted a program that revolutionized its twelve sophomore-level engineering foundation courses. Some of these courses serves most of the engineering disciplines and they routinely enroll 500-600 students per semester. Traditional teaching methods were replaced with a different approach and high-tech aids to provide an extraordinary amount of help to today’s students and also have them actively participate in the learning process without diminishing any of the courses content.