THE IMPACT OF APPLYING A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO DEVELOP ENGINEERING STUDENTS’ SKILLS
Ajman University of Science & Technology (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Engineering students are required to have developed both technical and generic skills during their undergraduate studies. The technical skills include application of mathematics, science and engineering principles for solving real-life problems, analysis and design of components, systems and processes, and experimental or practical skills. Some important generic skills desired in engineering graduates include communication skills and team work. This paper presents a case study of Electrical Engineering (EE) students at Ajman University of Science & Technology (AUST) and describes the impact of a holistic approach after applying it for more than seven years to develop a broad spectrum of skills in EE students. As part of this holistic approach, the following actions were taken to improve the technical as well generic skills of students:
1) The earlier EE curriculum was heavily inclined towards theoretical content with little focus on developing the technical and generic skills of students. It was totally revised and updated to reflect the current trends in engineering education including special emphasis on developing the desired skills.
2) In order to gradually develop the design, implementation, and troubleshooting skills, laboratory experiments were complimented with course-based projects for basic courses. The complexity of such projects increased with the level of the course. In addition, a completely course-based project was introduced in the junior year.
3) For enhancing the simulation skills, students were required to carry out simulation for their lab experiments and compare the simulated results with experimental results.
4) Embedded Peer-to-Peer coaching was introduced in the basic labs for developing the practical skills of below-average students.
5) More emphasis was placed on report writing and oral presentations to develop the communication skills. Students are now required to prepare and present a number of power point presentations during the course of their studies.
6) An intensive internal training program was introduced to prepare the students for their internship (external training) at engineering companies. The external training program was also improved.
7) More opportunities were provided for developing students' team work. This also included initiation of various voluntary community service projects involving a number of student teams.
8) Sense of competition was developed by encouraging students to participate in different national and regional competitions. This was further supported by introducing a variety of internal competitions.
9) A technical hobby club has been formed where senior students help junior students in developing projects of their interest.
As a result of the above-mentioned actions, there has been a significant improvement in the technical as well as generic skills of EE students. Over the past four years, EE students have been consistently winning competitions that require student teams with very high levels of technical and communication skills. Another important indicator is feedback from employers and alumni that has improved noticeably. Also, the number of students joining graduate studies at reputed international universities has substantially increased and AUST engineering students are now recognized as highly active in performing community service activities at the national level.