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M.A. Sanromán, M. Pazos, M.A. Longo

University of Vigo (SPAIN)
Engineers must have a strong knowledge both of theory and practice aspects, together with generic or transferable attributes such as communication and teamwork. Some key areas in engineering education are: development of piping and instrumentation diagrams, plant layout development, safety assessments, estimation of operating costs, etc. The required competencies may be acquired by the students through the main teaching strategies usually employed in this kind of studies (i.e. lectures, laboratory and computer activities, tutorials). Additionally, some complementary activities can be used to improve learning efficiency, although they need to be adequately designed for optimum results.
Field site visits to industries give students a concrete idea of how an industrial process is carried out, thus gaining a greater insight into their future profession. Besides, they can realize new career opportunities, and be introduced to prospective employers. The visits must be carefully targeted and planned, and objectives should be agreed in advance by the responsible academic and site hosts. The course content must take the planned visits into consideration, and administrative aspects should not be neglected [1].
Virtual laboratories may also be very useful to complement the teaching efficiency of physical labs [2]. They allow a computerized simulation of the laboratory experiments, without time or place restrictions, since they can be performed anytime and at any place provided internet access is available. Therefore, the limitations of traditional teaching methods (i.e. space, staff, scheduling and safety logistics) are overcome. Some universities have developed portals at which animations, videos and control of virtual experiments can be handled, therefore providing digital content for laboratory classes without a specific schedule.
The utilization of concept maps can be proposed as a means to enhance the effectiveness of teaching in engineering studies. Concept maps are graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge, which include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes, and relationships between concepts indicated by a connecting line [3].
Literature analysis assignments could help the students to develop their skills on the comprehension of scientific and technical texts. Also, writing skills can be improved, since a summary of the selected text should be prepared. The preparation of short oral presentations of the assignments could be considered. Discussion of the chosen topics should also be encouraged, in order to promote critical thinking. Web-based platforms could be used to further discussion (i.e. electronic discussion boards).

1.Ramesh SK, Mattiuzzi C (2001) Closing the loop: Industry site visits for program outcomes assessment. Proceedings Frontiers in Education Conference 1:T2A/7-T2A/10.
2.Domingues L, Rocha I, Dourado F, Alves M, Ferreira E (2010) Virtual laboratories in (bio)chemical engineering education. Educ Chem Eng. 5:e22-e27.
3.Novak JD, Cañas AJ (2008) The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them. Technical report IHMC CmapTools 2006-01 Rev 01-2008, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition