Chisholm’s ‘first year experience’ is a significant feature of the new industry focused Bachelor of Engineering Technology program delivered in association with the South East Melbourne Manufacturers’ Alliance (SEMMA). This conceive-design-implement-operate (CDIO Initiative) program commenced as a full time program in first semester 2012. Whereas it is common for CDIO Initiative programs to have a first year experience program containing a project typical of the type of industry project they would complete as a graduate engineer or engineering technologist, this goes further by using real industry projects provided by SEMMA members.
This design-and-build industry project runs across both semesters supporting project-based learning in three first year subjects. A concern is that the industry involvement of the projects adds substantially to an already heavy student workload. This has been further increased by the addition of two additional first year initiatives: writing workshops, and training in, and substantial use of, student oral presentations. It is recognised that an excessive workload could lead students to adopt surface learning approaches in other subjects.
The goal of the project is to evaluate student perceptions of the value and work load impact of the industry project and the other new first year initiatives.
Central to this project is a student survey-based evaluation of the industry project based learning that is the core of the ‘first year experience’. The participants were limited to the small group of students who, in a single year, completed all three subjects that comprise the ‘first year experience’. To avoid compromising the results the survey was administered by Chisholm Institute’s Department of Strategy and Planning with no engineering technology degree program staff present. The survey included questions to enable responses to be linked with specific student demographics without identifying any of the respondents.
The study showed the industry project-based learning had worthwhile outcomes but placed considerable time pressures on most respondents. For some, this also impacted on their other subjects. A first year oral presentation program was also shown to have worthwhile outcomes. However no conclusions could be reliably drawn on the third initiative – writing workshops.
The results confirm that the authentic industry project is considered a worthwhile initiative but contributes significantly to student overload. This applies also – to a lesser extent – to the first year oral presentation program. Both also require new approaches to delivery as student numbers increase. Strategies to address these issues are discussed.
Project-based learning; Industry projects; Graduate attributes; Writing skills; Oral presentations;