Integrating Business Skills in Engineering Education: Enhancing Learning Using a CDIO Approach

Integrating Business Skills in Engineering Education: Enhancing Learning Using a CDIO Approach

T. Mejtoft (2016).  Integrating Business Skills in Engineering Education: Enhancing Learning Using a CDIO Approach. 11.

Statistics show that in Sweden students applying for higher education programs clearly tend to choose study programs that lead to degrees with a close connection to a certain profession, such as an engineering degree (UHR, 2014). Since these study programs have such close connection to the profession it is important not only to discuss the knowledge that the students acquire in the field of study, but all skills needed by the students to cope with their future profession. Multifaceted skills are, in general, desired by the industry (Mechefske, 2005).. Many of Umeå University’s engineering education programs are based on CDIO (Crawley, 2007), thus the students should have knowledge and skills in all parts of the product's life cycle. This involves, for example, identifying needs, planning the development process, develop, production, maintenance and marketing products. This project seeks to respond to the need to give students skills within the Extended CDIO Syllabus 2.0 regarding integration of business skills in engineering education. Thus, the purpose of this article is to discuss and raise interest in issues related to the role of the engineer as part of the development of society. The article presents results from two courses in business models in which students' knowledge of business thinking are integrated with a technical development project. The results are based on evaluations, student questionnaires and student interviews during 2013-2015.

The results show that introducing cross-disciplinary courses that focus on business development in engineering education changes the view on the development process. Students express this as the course “gives a clearer picture of how the technology is supposed to be applied and other aspects such as usability, cost, design etc… than just merely make the technology work” and “it is important to think about how other people experience products and how important the perceived value of a product is”. Furthermore there are both positive aspects on these courses as well as problematic areas to deal with. The greatest benefits concern the change in thinking that students gain through a user-centric focus on development: “I have become better to understand how others think. To create the best value proposition you have to put yourself in another person’s thoughts”, the business thinking: “I have become better to connect what I do to profitability, that what we develop should be economically viable”, as well as the opportunity to nurture entrepreneurial behavior: "I got much insight and knowledge of how it would be to start my own business". The benefits of a broader approach to technology, which more tangibly connect to students’ future professional roles as developers, clearly are stressed by a majority of students in the course. Most disadvantages involved that a focus on the needs and business opportunities are “obstructing in terms of the technological development”, since not all focus is on technology.

Furthermore the results of the paper discusses the need of focusing the choices that the students do in different courses to integrate a clearer focus on value creation.

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

Authors (New): 
Thomas Mejtoft
Umeå University, Sweden
integrated learning experiences
Interdisciplinary courses
CDIO Standard 1
CDIO Standard 2
CDIO Standard 3
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 9
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