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E-LEARNING IN THE SUBJECT SIMULATION AND OPTIMIZATION OF CHEMICAL PROCESSES

A. García-Rubio1, J.M. Paz-García2, C. Gómez-Lahoz1, C. Vereda-Alonso1, F. García-Herruzo1, J.M. Rodríguez-Maroto1

1University of Málaga (SPAIN)
2Technical University of Denmark (DENMARK)
An Educational Innovation Project is being carried out at the University of Malaga in the 5th year subject "Simulation and Optimization of Chemical Processes" of the degree in Chemical Engineering. The results of this experience in the academic year 2009-10, which corresponds with the second year of the innovative action, are presented here. The modifications in the teaching-learning process basically involve two actions: Firstly, the face-to-face instruction is moved from the normal- to the computer-classroom in which the student should learn and should use the commercial software currently most used for simulation of chemical processes: ASPEN and HYSYS. Secondly, the tools available in the MOODLE platform were used to encourage the autonomous learning of students using both individual and collaborative activities.
The main objective of the teaching experience is to prepare the students for a better integration into the labor market through the acquisition of the specific skills of the degree. However, the teaching changes proposed in the project intend to achieve simultaneously other specific targets that are listed below:

1) Consolidation of the knowledge acquired in previous courses by applying them to the Simulation and Optimization of Chemical Processes (SOCP) (Cognitive aspects).
2) Familiarization of the students with the most common simulation tools (Procedural aspects).
3) Stimulation of a critical attitude of students towards the results obtained from the simulators (Attitudinal aspects).
These objectives are obviously related to the simulation tool that is intended to implement. However, such implementation is also associated with changes in teaching procedures, which in turn should allow an improvement of the teaching and learning process. Such changes of the teaching methodologies should improve the acquisition of transversal skills and would be largely beyond the scope of the subject. Therefore, these changes would be applicable not only in any scientific or technical higher education, but also in all other university degrees. In this sense, the following objectives also have to be achieved:
4) Students have to be responsible for a continuous work throughout the semester as part of learning process, as is proposed in the convergence criteria to the European High Education Area (EHEA).
5) Collaborative work should be encouraged. In this case, the tools available on the Moodle platform, such as workshops, could be used.
6) The Virtual Tutoring tools of the MOODLE platform should be used. Our teachers' team has already proven those tools in other innovative experiences performed for other subjects.
All these objectives are aimed to the achievement of a useful and significant overall learning of the students group.