In its report 'Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development' UNESCO (2010) identified a need to 'transform engineering education, ... to emphasize relevance and a problem-solving approach to engineering' particularly in developing countries. The potential rate of growth in conventional universities is limited and many look towards online, distance learning as a mechanism for addressing the rapidly growing shortage of graduates. But the limited range of online opportunities for undergraduates to develop and practise practical skills leads to scepticism that distance learning is viable in engineering. The Open University has recently been awarded £1 million to create the Wolfson Open Science Laboratory, 'a global centre at the cutting edge of practical science teaching - operated entirely online' (Open University, 2012). The University is committed to extending the Centre to include engineering. But there is, as yet, no widely-shared agreement over the role of practical work in the education of engineers that could lead to a strategy for such an initiative to gain worldwide acceptance (Feisel and Rosa, 2005). Movements such as CDIO (CDIO, 2012) have emphasised practical, problem-solving skills as the focus for effective engineering education but their approaches often present challenges for large-scale distance learning. If the benefits in scale and reach of online distance education are to be exploited to dramatically increase the supply of engineering graduates, there is an urgent need to develop a consensus on the role of practical learning activities in engineering education. This workshop will provide a forum to explore these and related issues.
Cutting edges; Engineering graduates; Engineering undergraduates; Learning Activity; Online distance education; Open science; Open universities; Practical skill; Problem solving skills; Science teaching; Wolfson
Engineering controlled terms: Developing countries; E-learning; Engineering
Engineering main heading: Engineering education
Endean, M.; Open University, United Kingdom; email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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