BOOSTING DIGITAL SKILLS IN THE DEGREE OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING
The practical aspects of the subjects oriented to the acquisition of professional competences are among the priorities of the educational program of most Spanish Universities. Moreover, one of the professional competences that the Chemical Engineer must develop during her education is mastering scientific-technical software packages that would allow her to perform automatized mathematical calculations, the construction of professional reports and the simulations of industrial process. Other interesting software options for students from multi-disciplinary degrees, such as Chemical Engineering, would be those for: numerical computing, 2D and 3D design, mechanical engineering computation, multi-component chemical interaction, references and bibliography management, spreadsheets, text processors, laboratory assistants, experiments monitoring, virtual laboratories, flowsheet design, and object-oriented programming.
During the last years, we author’s team have been paying special attention to promote the learning of two software packages: UniSim for process design and simulation and, EXCEL for engineering computation and optimization and results reporting. However, the authors have detected that the students do not have a global vision of the software possibilities neither the available options. In this context, there exists a huge number of software packages available that would be of interest for chemical engineers’ students that they normally ignore at the moment of finalizing their studies. Furthermore, in some cases, the students are exposed to a brief introduction to certain software but, due to lack of vertical and horizontal coordination, they do not have the chance to use in in other courses and assimilate the knowledge. As a result, the student perceives the software as a requirement to pass the course rather than a tool to improve their professional profile.
Herein, we propose a methodology based on a chart with levels to certify the digital competences, that would be equivalent to the “common European framework for language competences”, based on 3 levels: A: imitation, B: independence and C: creation, and 6 sub-levels: A1: introduction, A2: Beginner, B1: intermediate, B2: advanced, C1: expert and C2: professional. The student that satisfactorily successes specific courses would be granted a “badge”, what would indicate their level in specific digital competences. For example, the course “Integrated management systems”, in the second period of the 3rd year of Chemical Engineering would grant a B2 level in Excel, while “Process simulation and Optimization” would grant a B1 level in “Process simulation software”.
Despite the badge granted by the teacher has no official certification value, it facilitates the students’ perception of their own digital competences. Additionally, it promotes the vertical and horizontal coordination in the teaching program. For example, it would be possible to specify in the course program the level of digital competences for a software that the students would need to pass a certain course, as for example, a B1 level in “Integrated Management Systems”. On the other hand, collecting these badges, as they represent public merits, promotes the interest of the students in the similar way than other gamification methods do.