engineering education

Adaptive engineering course opens up engineering fundamentals to all

Free online course aims to improve outcomes in engineering education

The University of New South Wales Australia and adaptive learning provider Smart Sparrow have unveiled what they call the world’s first-ever open adaptive engineering course designed to unlock access to high-quality courses for learners of all backgrounds.

The course, Through Engineers’ Eyes: Engineering Mechanics by Experiment, Analysis and Design, was developed by Professor Gangadhara Prusty and Robin Ford, a retired Associate Professor, both from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing at UNSW. It is the first Engineering MOOC to leverage Adaptive Technology.

Adaptive Tutorials built on the Smart Sparrow platform have been incorporated to engage students with real-life simulations and personalised course materials, addressing the low completion rates in MOOCs and high failure rates in introductory engineering.

“Learning foundational engineering concepts requires one-to-one guidance that can often be difficult in online settings. Adaptive technology makes it possible to design online courses that supports each student throughout their learning journey,” said Professor Prusty. “Over the last nine years, I’ve integrated Smart Sparrow’s adaptive tutorials into my teaching, and have seen a significant reduction in failure rates from 31 per cent to 7 per cent, as well as a two-fold increase in the number of students achieving high marks in foundational mechanics courses in engineering. Now through this MOOC, we’re able to help convey our own passion for engineering mechanics to students, and engage them in new and exciting ways.”

The course will be delivered through FutureLearn, the UK’s first massive open online course platform, and will be available to all kinds of learners — students in introductory engineering programs, working adults looking to make career shifts into engineering, or individuals interested in a real-world understanding of how things work. For college students, the course is designed to improve completion rates for students new to engineering. An American research study shows that 40 to 50 percent of engineering students either switch majors or drop out during early years of study.

The MOOC is inspired by developments within the Adaptive Mechanics Network, a digital teaching network that enables engineering educators to share and collaborate with peers globally to adaptive best-in-class content for their own teaching needs. The Network reflects the rapidly growing adoption of open educational resources.

“The evolution of education technology enables instructors to bring complex concepts to life for students, whatever their academic background. Engineering and STEM courses should engage — rather than discourage students,” said Dr. Dror Ben Naim, founder and CEO of Smart Sparrow. “The Network makes it possible to tap the collective genius of innovative educators like Professor Prusty, who are re-imagining teaching and learning, while still giving instructors pedagogical control over their content.”

Through Engineers’ Eyes: Engineering Mechanics by Experiment, Analysis and Design will be available to students in April 2016. To register for the course, visit the website here.

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Laura Ascione