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Reengineering engineering education at the University of los Andes: The REDINGE2 pilot project

Álvaro Hernán Galvis (Facultad de Educación – Conecta-TE, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)
Angélica Avalo (Facultad de Educación – Conecta-TE, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)
Alexandra Ramírez (Facultad de Educación – Conecta-TE, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)
Diana Carolina Cortés (Facultad de Educación – Conecta-TE, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)
Helmman Cantor (Facultad de Educación – Conecta-TE, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia)

Kybernetes

ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 6 August 2019

Issue publication date: 19 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The REDINGE2 – Reengineering Engineering Teaching, version 2 – project seeks to transform engineering education practices at the University of los Andes (UNIANDES) by using technology-based active learning strategies in courses from different disciplines that are to be reformed using a Big-ideas approach. Studies from this two-year project (2017-2018) seek to solve three main questions: What changes in engineering teaching conceptions, methods, tools and practices could be generated by reengineering courses using a Big-ideas approach? What changes in key conditions of learning environments have the students perceived in courses that use a Big-ideas approach? What lessons can be derived from the initial studies of REDINGE2’s pilot experiences?

Design/methodology/approach

The REDINGE2 project was conceived as a technology-based educational transformation initiative. It is the Faculty of Engineering at UNIANDES’ explicit intention to move engineering teaching from being content-focused to being big-ideas focused. It also wants to migrate from teacher-centered teaching strategies to student- and group-centered approaches. Additionally, this project intends to enrich engineering education ecologies with digital resources by integrating experiential, flexible and collaborative digital learning environments with traditional classroom/workshop/library/home/work learning settings. To promote this organic change, the project implemented a facilitation-from-the side strategy, which redesigned 14 engineering courses: each was given a two-year grant from the Office of the Dean of Engineering to rethink teaching practices and redesign the course. A cybernetic evaluation system was embedded in the life cycle of the transformation process that could support decision-making through each of the project’s stages (Stufflebeam, 1971). Questions of interest in this study are provided with information using triangulation of data at different times during each course’s redesign process.

Findings

After a year and half of the two-year REDINGE2 project (2017-2018), it is possible to say the following three research questions are fully solved. Concerning Question #1: What changes in engineering teaching conceptions, methods, tools and practices contribute to reengineering courses when using a Big-ideas approach? Participating teaching staff have demonstrated changes in their teaching conceptions, methods and resources, which can be attributed to their exposure to active-learning strategies supported by digital technologies. In fact, each one has redesigned and pilot tested at least one restructured learning unit for one of their courses according to the proposed Big-ideas approach; in addition, most admit to already having adjusted their teaching practices by changing their mindset regarding learning and how to promote it. Concerning Question #2: What changes in key conditions of learning environments have the students perceived in courses that have been redesigned using a Big-ideas approach? Data collected from students and participating staff members, both before the redesign and throughout this process, have provided teachers and students with feedback concerning perceived changes in learning environments. This has had positive results and provided opportunities for improvement. Concerning Question #3: What lessons can be derived from REDINGE2’s pilot experiences? Lessons from this project are multi-dimensional and there are organizational, pedagogic, technological and cultural considerations. A decalogue of critical success factors was established, which considered the things that must go right to successfully accomplish proposed educational transformations.

Research limitations/implications

This study is a good case of educational transformations in engineering teaching. No generalizations should be made, but it shows that similar processes of planned change can be made in tertiary science, math, engineering and technology (SMET) education.

Practical implications

The lessons learned from this experience are very valuable for higher education decision-makers who want to innovate by using learning ecologies in their institutions. In addition, theoretical considerations that illuminate the innovation process become very useful to help provide a foundation to similar interventions.

Originality/value

A non-conventional approach to integrate digital technologies in higher education teaching is the most significant contribution this experience has made. Its focus has been to transform educational practices with pedagogically sound uses of digital technologies instead of just integrating technologies in current SMET teaching practices. Facilitation-from-the-side and embedded cybernetic evaluation through the transformation process are key ideas that add value to organic change processes.

Keywords

Citation

Galvis, Á.H., Avalo, A., Ramírez, A., Cortés, D.C. and Cantor, H. (2019), "Reengineering engineering education at the University of los Andes: The REDINGE2 pilot project", Kybernetes, Vol. 48 No. 7, pp. 1478-1499. https://doi.org/10.1108/K-07-2018-0384

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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