WORK IN PROGRESS- ADDRESSING FIRST YEAR ENGINEERING RETENTION THROUGH FOCUSED EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS SUPPORTING STUDENT SUCCESS
The issue of retention in engineering has become a common problem in higher education for most colleges and universities around the world. Madgett & Belanger (2008) defined retention as an attractive method for nations to ensure a steady supply of university graduates and alleviate skills imbalances and shortages. The average rate of graduating students across the engineering disciplines undergraduate in North America has been identified to range from approximately 55% to 60%. This high percentage of non-completions is being viewed as an excessive loss to the qualified workforce. Hence, the issue of retention in engineering is a challenge for most universities. Research has shown that engineering retention and graduation rates are highly improved through first year success and experiences that actively integrate and engage faculty, staff and students.
The Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science at Ryerson University has designed and implemented several programs and changes to the first year students experience in an effort to support students success in their education and their attempt to attain the University’s high academic standards and to improve retention of students from the first year to second year. A change in first year engineering course CEN100 “Introduction to Engineering” has been put in place, this course is divided into two main components namely, orientation and introduction to the engineering programs at Ryerson. As a result, first year students feel supported, more invested in the community, and knowledgeable as they begin their transition from high school to the university environment. Also, developing academically driven coursework that engages first year students in real world engineering issues is complementary to the core classes they are taking in math and physics. This paper describes several of these programs and their modifications, and makes recommendations for further study.