THE EFFECT OF IMPLEMENTING PROJECT-BASED LEARNING ON IMPROVING FIRST-YEAR ENGINEERING STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES AND EXPERIENCE
The issue of retention in engineering has become a common problem in higher education for most universities and colleges around the world. The average rate of graduating students across the engineering disciplines 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 success in first-year studies and experiences that actively integrate and engage faculty, staff, and students.
The Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) at Ryerson University has designed and implemented several programs and changes to the first-year students experience in an effort to support student’s 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 the second year. The FEAS has included a faculty-wide an introductory to design course, CEN 100 “Introduction to Engineering” for many years. This course is divided into three main components namely, orientation, problem analysis, and team-based design project. In 2017, a Project Management (PM) Assisted Learning program focused on improving student performance in the Introduction to Engineering course was implemented. Our PM program is modeled after the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) program, which has been shown to provide long- and short-term benefits to both students and peer leaders. The underlying concept of this approach is students will feel more comfortable and are more likely to engage when mentors are closer to their same age or experience. As a result, first-year students feel supported, more involved with the community, and knowledgeable, as they begin their transition from high school to the university environment. PM students serve as peer mentors and are consistently highly regarded by first-year students. PM program has resulted in an average 10% increase in the first-year students' grades taking the CEN100 course. This paper describes the PM program and its modifications and makes recommendations for further study.