Innovations in Teaching
The Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at UCL has a long history of innovation in the teaching of the subject dating back to its founder Sir John Ambrose Fleming who developed mnemonics for teaching electromagnetic theory and instigated the use of self directed lab scripts. Today the tradition of innovation and leadership in teaching continues through two recent developments in the teaching of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
Scenario Based Learning
To following the success of Problem Based Learning, detailed below, we aimed to extend this student centered approach to earlier years and promote team work as well as enable students to make great connection between the courses they encounter in the first two years of their studies.
In 2008 we introduced a series of, week long, engineering design projects called scenarios, where students work in small groups in a realistic situation on a fairly open problem where the outcomes are undetermined. The scenarios are designed to draw on and consolidate the lecture material that the students will have received in the preceding weeks. As such, planning of the course and design of the scenario needs to be carried out in an integrated fashion with emphasis on horizontal integration across lecture courses and application of knowledge through engineering design projects (scenarios). The use of a series of short focused scenarios in the first and second year, rather than the more often used design project running over an entire academic term in parallel with lectures, was designed to: enable a greater range of areas within the curriculum to be covered, simplify time management for the students, and provide increased opportunity to provide formative feedback that the students can apply in upcoming scenarios.
- "Assessment of Scenario-Based Learning", UCL CALT Symposium on Assessment for Learning. video presentation in iTunesU, April 2009
- Thomsen, B.C., Renaud, C.C., Savory, S.J., Romans, E.J., Mitrofanov, O., Rio, M., Day, S.E., Kenyon, A.J. and Mitchell, J.E. (2010) Introducing Scenario Based Learning: Experiences from an undergraduate electronic and electrical engineering course. In: IEEE EDUCON 2010: IEEE Engineering Education 2010 – The Future of Global Learning in Engineering Education, 14-16 April 2010, Madrid, Spain.
Problem Based Learning.
In 1995, the Association of Graduate Recruiters called on universities to do more to equip their students with the personal and transferable skills required by industry, and the Institution of Engineering and Technology – IET (formerly the Institution of Electrical Engineers - IEE) constituted an Industry Working Party which subsequently produced a report (undated) emphasising the need for graduates to be better versed in problem solving, team working and being prepared to be lifelong learners.
In 2001, special funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the IEE allowed a small consortium of UK universities to investigate the potential of problem-based learning to address such challenges. When the project began, there was little experience with PBL outside of medical education or other disciplines allied to health or social care although recently PBL has become a more popular approach to enhancing the undergraduate student experience. It is important to note that these developments, whilst cognisant of increasing industry demands, may equally be driven by a greater awareness of theories of student centered learning, and the positive benefits shown when a deep approach to learning is encouraged.
The problem based learning course that was created took a traditional, lecture based course in the 3rd year of the undergraduate curriculum and replaced it with a problem based approach. The resulting course requires groups of students to report on the solutions to a set of problems over the course of one term. No formal lectures were given, with the only contact through facilitation session where experienced staff were able to offer guidance to the groups while being careful not to have too heavy an influence on the solution being investigated.
- Mitchell, J.E. and Smith, J. and Kenyon, A.J. (2005) It’s not for lazy students like me…. International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education, 42 (1). pp. 41-52
- Mitchell, J.E. and Smith, J. (2008) Case study of the introduction of problem-based learning in electronic engineering. International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education, 45 (2). pp. 131-143.
- Mitchell, J.E., Canavan, B. and Smith, J. (2009) Problem-based learning in communication systems: student perceptions and achievement. IEEE Transactions on Education. (In press)