Engineering Learning & Teaching: Top 10 Titles for 2020

The year 2020 has finally come to an end, and we are off to a new start with the year 2021. This is also the fifth year the the Engineering Learning and Teaching blog has been running. I have had the opportunity to engage, through this blog, with students, engineering educators, researchers and practising engineers from literally every corner of the world, and it has been a very exciting and immensely rewarding experience for me.

Viewership has steadily increased from an average of 65 views per month in 2015 to the present 800 views per month in 2020. Thank you for all your support over the past five years, and I look forward to another exciting year as we continue our journey, dissecting and analysing issues in engineering education as they emerge. In today’s blog piece, I present the top ten articles on the Engineering Learning and Teaching Blog.

These ten topics illustrate the diversity of the blog’s readership, and I am looking forward to expanding beyond this range. If you have suggestions for topics that you would like me to explore, just let me know via the comments section, or via twitter (@AbelNyamapfene), or via linkedIn or send me an email (a dot nyamapfene at ucl dot ac dot uk)

1: Interdisciplinary Engineering Education: Difficult, but not Impossible

This blog was primarily written for the busy engineering academic and administrator. The blog addresses two questions relating to interdisciplinarity in engineering education: For the ordinary engineering academic, it serves to answer this question: “What is interdisciplinary education, and how can I get started?” And for the senior engineering academic tasked with leading engineering degree programmes, it seeks to provide answers to the question: “How do we develop a truly interdisciplinary engineering curriculum?”

2: Engineering Education: Potential Journals in Which to Publish

Engineering academics usually have training in the physical sciences, and engineering education research is usually an entirely new research discipline for them. This blog helps to smoothen their journey into engineering education research by providing them with a list of bona fide journals that they can publish in. The Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) has set up a dedicated EER Journals page on their website listing some of the key journals in the field. I have provided a mirror list here: REEN Engineering Education Research (EER) Journal List.

3: The Piano Method for Studying Mathematics

This post was written primarily for students of engineering who are starting on their engineering studies, but are living in fear of the engineering mathematics modules they have to cover. This blog seeks to inform the student that mathematics, at its barest minimum, is a practice that one can master only through discipline and practice. Using the example of someone learning to play the piano, the blog emphasises that mastery of mathematics requires a lot of passion , determination, and willingness to practise constantly.

4: Blended synchronous learning and teaching: Is this the future of university teaching?

I wrote this blog in 2017, well before the current COVID-19 pandemic, to publicise our then novel approach to learning and teaching on the UCL MSc Engineering and Education that enables students to attend virtually or in person. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this hybrid approach has become mainstream, and this blog provides useful insights that other teachers can adopt in their own teaching.

5: Excelling in University-level Mathematics, and not Just Surviving

One of the main reasons why I think early-stage engineering students often struggle is that they have not yet developed a disciplined process of carrying out their academic work. In this blog I discuss some of the critical study skills that students of mathematical disciplines such as engineering ought to acquire. A lot has been written on study skills, and I have gone through some of the key writings to distil the essential elements that a first year student embarking on a mathematically-oriented degree programme ought to know and make use of. I wrote this blog in 2015. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have built in all the study steps that I outlined in this blog into our online engineering mathematics teaching, and this has provided our students with a helpful, structured study approach for which they are very grateful.

6: Student Assignments, Missed Deadlines and the Planning Fallacy

As academics and students, we are all familiar with the rush to submit assignments just before the deadline expires. It doesn’t matter how much time the lecturer allows for the assignment, statistically most students will submit their assignments on or at the close of the deadline, and more often than not, these submissions will be rushed and clearly unpolished. In this blog I raise this issue, and suggest that this may be down to the planning fallacy, whereby students routinely overestimate their capabilities, and underestimate the amount of work that they need to do.

7: Excelling in Engineering School: Collaborate – Being smart is not enough

One of the key study skills that engineering students have to muster is collaboration with their peers. Usually our students are high performers who are used to individual study in high school. Often, such students tend to struggle in the first year at university, and a key reason is that they have chosen to ignore the advice : “Two heads are better than one” when it comes to studying. In this blog, I use findings from a range of studies to convince students that team-working and peer collaboration are critical to their success as students, and to their success as practising professionals when they graduate.

8: The global state-of-the-art in engineering education: A review

As engineering academics, we often have education leadership roles thrust upon us, not because we have shown any particular aptitude for engineering education, but as an obligatory requirement as senior academics within our academic departments. As a conscientious academic thrust into this unfamiliar role, you may well be wondering:

  1. Whose voice should I listen to if I am considering curriculum change in my own school?
  2. Which successful institutions, worldwide, should I turn to for guidance?
  3. Of these successful institutions, which ones closely match my own, in terms of size, operational environment and institutional education mission?
  4. Of the plethora of engineering education models out there, which ones are likely to stand the test of time, and which one are just passing fads?

One source that you can turn to is the publication by Ruth Graham: “The global state-of-the-art in engineering education: Outcomes of Phase 1 benchmarking study” In this blog I review this important publication, and hopefully this will encourage you to explore the publication in more detail.

9: UK-based Engineering Education Research (And Related) Phd Theses since 2000

As the discipline of Engineering Education Research (EER) becomes more and more mainstream, an increasing number of people are seeking to pursue PhD research in this area. However, as a new discipline, the number of publicly available EER PhD dissertations is still small, and difficult for the novice EER researcher to locate. In this blog, I present a list of 66 EER PhD Dissertations undertaken in UK universities, and completed and released into the public domain in the period 2000 -2016.

10: The UCL-Ventura breathing aid: An insight into the emerging engineering practices of the 21st century

The COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for most of us. However, as so often happens in times of disaster, it has also shone a light on the best of humanity. The collaborative design and development of urgently required breathing kits is a case in point. From an engineering education point of view, these collaborative efforts provided critical insights into how individuals and organisation collaborate in real life to get things done. The UCL-Ventura breathing aid is just one example of many such projects. In this blog, I review the work undertaken to develop the UCL-Ventura breathing aid, with the specific objective of drawing parallels between this project and the skills and competences that students learn in challenge based classes, and in final year group projects.

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