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Survey results reveal opportunities for engineering education at third level

Ahead of the new academic year commencing for third level students across Ireland, Engineers Ireland’s Academic Society has released findings from a recent survey of over 19 higher educational institutions, representing 16 engineering disciplines from civil to electronic, mechatronic, mechanical and biomedical, across the island of Ireland.

The survey sought to find out more about how each higher education institution will deliver engineering programmes in the next academic year in light of COVID-19 constraints.

Focusing on the delivery of engineering laboratories, the survey found that 57% of engineering laboratories were delivered differently post March 2020 and 43% stopped completely – many because practicals were completed for that semester and students were finalising their assignments. In some areas, assessment practices in relation to laboratories were revisited and simulation and improvisation were utilised. In addition to increased use of Technology Enhanced Learning, emerging solutions, such as utilising remote and virtual labs, students taking home lab kits and collaborating with team-mates using Microsoft Teams, were also utilised.

The survey findings and opportunities for innovation at third level were discussed by over 200 academics who are involved in the teaching of engineering courses in Ireland’s colleges and universities during a webinar hosted by Engineers Ireland’s Academic Society on engineering teaching, assessment and laboratories in Ireland, and how remote and virtual laboratories can provide students with learning experiences in distance and blended contexts.

Úna Parsons, Chair of Engineers Ireland’s Academic Society and Head of Faculty of Engineering & Design at IT Sligo, commented: “Engineering academics responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by moving teaching and assessment online, however, the delivery of laboratories and other ‘hands on’ activities can represent challenges for both academic and technical staff.

“Although our survey did highlight numerous challenges, such as the uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the need for high quality PCs among the student body, the feedback from engineering academics from across Ireland also highlighted the vast opportunities to innovate and create even better learning experiences for students in higher education than previously conceived. The survey revealed that blended delivery using synchronous and asynchronous Technology Enhanced Learning online will be commonplace and novel solutions will come to the fore. Equally, the survey also highlighted that many institutions will still hold practical classes on campus with distancing and good practice in place. Critically, feedback received also highlighted that good leadership and management by module leaders, programme boards, middle and senior management will also help academics rise to the challenge posed to engineering education by the current pandemic.”

In the spirit of collegiality, Engineers Ireland Academic Society will strive to share opportunity and innovation in the classroom to inspire all academic and technical staff in the engineering education sector.

For more information on Engineers Ireland’s Academic Society visit:

Image by Andreas Breitling from Pixabay

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