Integrating and Innovating Methodologically an Introductory Engineering Course: Using Service Learning

Integrating and Innovating Methodologically an Introductory Engineering Course: Using Service Learning

S. Loyer, M. Loyola, H. Silva, M. Gómez, K. Contreras, F. González (2016).  Integrating and Innovating Methodologically an Introductory Engineering Course: Using Service Learning. 10.

This paper describes in detail the new design and implementation of the Introduction to Civil Engineering course at UCSC. The course was the result of the work of a multidisciplinary team that rapidly evolved into a teaching community that is still working today.

According to the CDIO Standards, an introductory course not only provides a framework for engineering practice, but also “introduces essential personal and interpersonal skills”. Particularly, in this course the learning outcomes are related to attitudes, teamwork, leadership and communication skills. Also, being a first year course, it should comply with CDIO standard 1 (context), standard 8 (active learning) and due to positive prior experiences, standard 5 (design implement experiences). Therefore, this course has a lot of constraints and demands.

Previous efforts had had good results in terms of motivation and knowing more about civil engineering, but not regarding the other learning outcomes.

The new course considers all the above, but also adds an interesting fact: We had previously tried to expose students to real engineering practices. So the question aroused: Why not instead of just exposing them let’s have them carry out a real engineering experience. The answer was introducing a service-learning project. This sets not only the context, but also the purpose for the other learning outcomes that are addressed in the course. Therefore, all the personal, interpersonal and leadership skills that are part of the course are actually necessary for the development of the project, and that makes all the difference.

The resulting model may be summarized as follows. The backbone of the course is a Service Learning Project that is carried out during the whole semester, which requires them to conceive, design, implement and raise funds for its implementation. In parallel, students work with different teachers on the skills that have been mentioned. For each one of these learning outcomes there is a specific syllabus, but it was possible to plan it out during the semester in a way that they were addressed “just in time”, that is in the precise moment that they would be necessary to carry out a specific part of the project.

The community was assigned and the project had to evolve around something that they could design and build in order to solve the problem or requirement that they had identified. Each team had to come up with a proposal that was presented in front of the teachers and representatives of the community, but only one was selected and therefore built. In the second part the whole class worked on the same project, changing the role that each team had previously played.

The results of this experience were impressive. Just to name a few, compared to previous semesters students were highly motivated and really developed up to a certain level the skills addressed. But the most impressive change was in their attitude, due the experience and a self-awareness process that was intentionally provoked. A changing process was initiated in these students, so the challenge remains for the following courses.

Proceedings of the 12th International CDIO Conference, Turku, Finland, June 12-16 2016

Authors (New): 
Solange Loyer
Manuel Loyola
Hernán Silva
Marco Gómez
Karla Contreras
Felipe González
Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, Chile
Cocrea Consultants, Chile
Service Learning
Introduction to engineering courses
personal and interpersonal skills
leadership skills
teaching community
CDIO Standard 1
CDIO standard 4
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 11
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