Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

In September 2015 the first university-business co-developed Degree Apprenticeship  programmes, were launched – having been designed and eligible for funding under the government’s new model for apprenticeship training (Apprenticeship Standards), and expected to be resourced via the so called “apprenticeship Levy”.

Whilst still at a relatively small scale and early stage, as at March 2016, Apprenticeship Standards are ‘ready for delivery’ at the Degree Apprenticeship level in three discipline areas – two of which are engineering-related.  A further seven are awaiting approval, five of which are engineering-related.

Some toolkit content is available to members only. For best results, make sure you’re logged in.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Dr. Jude Bramton of the University of Bristol discusses her first-hand experience of using the Engineering Ethics Toolkit and what lessons she learnt.

 

Starting off

Let me set the scene. It’s a cold January morning after the winter break and I need to prepare some Engineering Ethics content for our third year Mechanical Engineers. The students have never been taught this topic, and I have never taught it.

I’m apprehensive – many of our students are fantastic engineering scientists/mathematicians and I’m not sure how they will engage with a subject that is more discussive and, unlike their more technical subjects, a subject with no single correct answer.

Nonetheless, my task is to design a 50-minute session for ca. 180 undergraduate Mechanical Engineers to introduce the concept of Engineering Ethics and start to build this thinking into their engineering mindset. The session will be in a flatbed teaching space, where students will be sitting in groups they have been working in for a number of weeks.

For a bit more context, the content is assessed eventually as part of a group coursework where students assess the ethical implications of a specific design concept they have come up with.

 

Designing the session with the help of the Toolkit

From doing a little bit of research online, I came across the Engineering Ethics Toolkit from the EPC – and I was so grateful.

I started off by reviewing all 8 case studies available at the time, and reading them in the context of my session. I picked one that I felt was most appropriate for the level and the subject matter and chose the Solar Panels in a Desert Oil Field case study.

I used the case study in a way that worked for me – that’s the beauty of this resource, you can make it what you want.

I put my session together using the case study as the basis, and including the Engineering Council’s principles of Engineering Ethics and some hand-picked tools from some of Toolkit’s guidance articles – for example, I used the 7-step guide to ethical decision making.

I used the text directly from the case study to make my slides. I introduced the scenario in parts, as recommended, and took questions/thoughts verbally from the students as we went. The students then had access to all of the scenario text on paper, and had 15-20 minutes to agree three decisions on the ethical dilemmas presented in the scenario. Students then had to post their group’s answers on PollEverywhere.

The overall session structure looked like this:

 

How did it go?

When I ran the session, one key component was ensuring I set my expectations for student participation and tolerance at the start of the session. I openly told students that, if they feel comfortable, they will need to be vocal and participative in the session to get the most from it. I literally asked them – “Is that something we think we can do?” – I got nods around the room (so far, so good).

Overall, the session went better than I could have expected. In fact, I think it was the most hands up I have ever had during a class. Not only did we hear from students who hadn’t openly contributed to class discussion before, but I had to actively stop taking points to keep to time. It made me wonder whether this topic, being presented as one with no wrong or right answers, enabled more students to feel comfortable contributing to a large class discussion. Students were very tolerant of each others’ ideas, and we encouraged differences of opinion.

For the small group discussions, I left a slide up with the three ethical dilemmas and the 7-step guide to ethical decision making as a prompt for those that needed it. During the small group discussions, I and supporting teaching staff wandered around the room observing, listening and helping to facilitate discussion, although this was rarely needed as engagement was fantastic. The small group sessions also allowed opportunities for contribution from those students who perhaps felt less comfortable raising points in the wider class discussion.

To my delight, the room was split on many decisions, allowing us to discuss all aspects of the dilemmas when we came to summarise as a larger class. I even observed one group being so split they were playing rock-paper-scissors to make their decision – not quite the ethical decision making tool we might advertise, but representative of the dilemma and engagement of students nonetheless!

 

Student feedback

I asked our Student Cohort Representative to gather some informal feedback from students who attended the session. Overall, the response was overwhelmingly positive, here are a few snippets:

“It was the best lecture I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

“The most interesting session, had me engaged.”

“It was the first time learning about the connections between engineering and ethics and it was really useful.”

“I enjoyed the participation and inclusion with the students during the lesson. It has favoured the growth of personal opinions and a greater clarity of the subject and its points of view.  Furthermore, the addition of real-life examples gave more depth to the topic, facilitating listening and learning.”

“The session was very engaging and I liked the use of examples… This whole unit has showed me how there are more aspects of engineering to consider apart from just designing something. Engineers must always think of ethics and I believe this session has demonstrated that well.”

And finally, when asked “What was your overall impression of the session?” a student replied Interesting and curious.” – what more could you ask for?

It was such a pleasant surprise to me that not only did students engage in the session, but they actively enjoyed the topic.

 

I’ve run it once, how would I improve it?

One thing I would do differently next time would be to allow even more time for discussion if at all possible. As discussed, I had to stop and move on, despite the engagement in the room at certain points.

I also reflect how it might have gone if the students weren’t as engaged at the start. If you have other teaching staff in the room, you can use them to demonstrate that it’s ok to have differences of opinion. A colleague and I openly disagreed with each other on a topic, and demonstrated that this was ok. Additionally, if larger class engagement doesn’t work for you, you could also go straight to the small group discussion.

 

In summary (and top tips!)

I now feel very comfortable, and excited, to be teaching engineering ethics. It has now also catalysed more content to be created to embed this theme further in our programme – so it doesn’t just become that “one off” lecture. However, I think providing specific time on this subject was very beneficial for the students, it gave them time and space to reflect on such a complex topic.

My takeaways and recommendations from this experience have been:

All in all, I would recommend the resources on the Engineering Ethics Toolkit to anyone. They can be easily adapted to your own contexts and there is a plethora of resources and knowledge that are proven to engage students and get them thinking ethically.

You can find out more about getting involved or contributing to the Engineering Ethics Toolkit here.

 

This blog is also available here.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Authors: Matthew Studley (UWE Bristol); Sarah Jayne Hitt, Ph.D. SFHEA (NMITE, Edinburgh Napier University). 

Keywords: Pedagogy; Personal ethics; Risk. 

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to integrate ethics into the engineering and design curriculum, or into module design and learning activities. It describes techniques that can help to provide students with opportunities to practise the communication and critical thinking skills that employers are looking for. 

 

Premise: 

Discussing ethical issues can be a daunting prospect, whether one-to-one or with an entire classroom. Ethics often addresses topics and decisions related to moral choices and delicate situations about which people may have firm and long-held beliefs. Additionally, these issues are often rooted in underlying values which may differ between people, cultures, or even time periods. For instance, something that was considered immoral or unethical in a rural community in 18th-century Ireland may have been viewed very differently at the same time in urban India. Because students come from different backgrounds and experiences, it is essential to be sensitive to this context (Kirk and Flammia, 2016). However, ethics also requires that we address tough topics in order to make decisions about what we should do in difficult situations, such as those encountered by engineers in their personal, professional, and civic lives. 

 

Why we need to be sensitive in discussions about ethics: 

Discussions about tough topics can be ‘triggering’. Psychologists define a psychological ‘trigger’ as a stimulus that causes a painful memory to resurface. A trigger can be any reminder of the traumatic event: a sound, sight, smell, physical sensation, words, or images. When a person is triggered, they’re being provoked by a stimulus that awakens or worsens the symptoms of a traumatic event or mental health condition (Gerdes, 2019). A person’s strong reaction to being triggered may come as a surprise to others because the response seems out of proportion to the stimulus, because the triggered individual is mentally reliving the original trauma. Some neurodivergencies can adapt these responses. For example, people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience stronger emotional reactions and may present this in ways which are unfamiliar or surprising to those who have not experienced the same challenges (Fuld, 2018). 

Apart from triggering memories, the topics of right and wrong may be emotive. Young people are often passionate in their beliefs and may be moved to strong responses. There is nothing wrong with that, unless one person’s strong response makes another’s participation and expression less likely.  

 

Ethics is only salient if the topics are tough: 

Ethics concerns questions of moral value, of right and wrong, and relates to our deep-held beliefs and emotions. If any experience in an engineer’s education is likely to cause unpleasant memories to surface, or to stimulate strong discussion, it’s likely to be Ethics, and some of our students may have an emotional response to the topics of discussion and their impacts. This might be enough to make many educators shy away from integrating ethics. 

However, research has shown that most engineers are moved by their personal sense of moral value, rather than by abstract external standards, and this can create very powerful and impactful learning experiences (Génova and González, 2016). To teach Ethics, we need to be willing to engage emotionally. Students also appreciate when educators can be vulnerable in the same way that we ask them to be, which means being willing to be honest about our own reactions to tough topics. 

 

Approaches to tackling tough topics:  

a. Prepare by reviewing resources 

Several resources exist to guide educators who are engaging with tough topics in the classroom. Teaching and learning specialists recognise the challenges inherent in engaging with this kind of activity, yet also want to support educators who see the value in creating a space for students to wrestle with the difficult questions that they will encounter in the future. Many centres of teaching and learning at universities provide strategies and guidance through websites or pamphlets that are easily found by searching online. We include a list of some of our preferred resources below. 

b. Prepare by finding local support 

Even though we will avoid obvious triggers, there’s always the possibility that our students may become upset. We should be prepared by promoting the contact details for local support services within the institution. It can never be a bad thing for our students to know about these. 

 c. Give warnings and ask for consent 

You might want to warn your students that discussing ethical matters is not without emotional consequence. At your discretion, seek their explicit consent to continue. There has been some criticism of this approach in the media, as some authors suggest that this infantilises the audience. Indeed, the pros and cons of trigger warnings might make an interesting topic for discussion: life can be cruel, is there value in developing a thick skin? What do we lose in this process? Being honest about your own hesitations and internal conflicts might encourage students to open up about how they wrestle with their own dilemmas. To be fully supportive, consider an advanced warning with the option to opt-out so that people aren’t stampeded into something they might prefer to avoid. 

 d. Recognise discomfort, and respond 

Be aware of the possibility that individuals in your group could become upset. Be prepared to quietly offer time out or to change the activity in response to where the students want to take the discussion. Again, being transparent with the students that some people may be uncomfortable or upset by topics can reveal another relevant ethical topic – how to be respectful of others whose response differs from your own. And being willing to change the activity demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability required of 21st century engineers!  

 e. Avoid unnecessary risk 

Some topics are best avoided due to the strength of emotion which they might trigger in students whose life story may be unknown to us. These topics include sexual abuse, self-harm, violence, eating disorders, homophobia, transphobia, racism, child abuse and paedophilia, and rape.  

 

Be kind, and be brave: 

Above all, let your students know that you care for their well-being. If we are to teach Ethics, let us be ethical. You might need to overcome some awkward moments with your students, but you will all learn and grow in the process! 

 

References: 

Fuld S. (2018) ‘Autism spectrum disorder: The Impact of stressful and traumatic life events and implications for clinical practice.’ Clinical Social Work Journal 46(3), pp. 210-219.  

Génova, G., and González, M.R. (2016) ‘Teaching ethics to engineers: A Socratic experience,’ Science and Engineering Ethics 22, pp. 567–580.  

Gerdes, K. (2019) ‘Trauma, trigger warnings, and the rhetoric of sensitivity,’ Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 49(1), pp. 3-24. 

Kirk S. A. and Flammia, M. (2016) ‘Teaching the ethics of intercultural communication,’ in Teaching and Training for Global Engineering: Perspectives on Culture and Professional Communication Practices, pp.91-124. 

 

Additional resources: 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Case enhancement: Developing a school chatbot for student support services

Activity: Stakeholder mapping to elicit value assumptions and motivations.

Author: Karin Rudolph (Collective Intelligence).

 

Overview:

This enhancement is for an activity found in point 5 of the Summary section of the case study.

What is stakeholder mapping?

What is a stakeholder?

Mapping out stakeholders will help you to:

  1. Identify the stakeholders you need to collaborate with to ensure the success of the project.
  2. Understand the different perspectives and points of view people have and how these experiences can have an impact on your project or product.
  3. Map out a wide range of people, groups or individuals that can affect and be affected by the project.

 

Stakeholder mapping:

The stakeholder mapping activity is a group exercise that provides students with the opportunity to discuss ethical and societal issues related to the School Chatbot case study. We recommend doing this activity in small groups of 6-8 students per table.

 

Resources:

 

Materials:

To carry out this activity, you will need the following resources:

1. Sticky notes (or digital notes if online).

2. A big piece of paper or digital board (Jamboard, Miro if online) divided into four categories:

3. Markers and pencils.

 

The activity:

 

Board One

List of stakeholders:

Below is a list of the stakeholders involved in the Chatbot project. Put each stakeholder on a sticky note and add them to the stakeholders map, according to their level of influence and interest in the projects.

Top tip: use a different colour for each set of stakeholders.

School Chatbot – List of Stakeholders:

 

Placement:

 

Guidance:

Each quadrant represents the following:

Board One

Motivations, assumptions, ethical and societal risks:

Materials:

1. A big piece of paper or digital board (Jamboard, Miro if online) divided into four categories:

2. Sticky notes (or digital notes if online).

3. Markers and pencils.

The activity:

 

Board Two

The Board Two activity can be done in two different ways:

Option 1:

You can use some guiding questions to direct the discussion. For example:

Option 2:

We have already written some assumptions, motivations and ethical/societal risks and you can add these as notes on a table and ask students to place according to each category: stakeholders, motivations, assumptions, and ethical and societal risks.

Motivations:

Assumptions:

Potential ethical and societal risks:

Move and match: 

 

 

 

Reflection:

Ask students to choose 2- 4 sticky notes and explain why they think these are important ethical/societal risks.

 

Potential future activity:

A more advanced activity could involve a group discussion where students are asked to think about some mitigation strategies to minimise these risks.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Gareth Thomson (Aston University, Birmingham), Dr Jakub Sacharkzuk (Aston University, Birmingham) and Paul Gretton (Aston University, Birmingham)

Keywords: Industry, Engineering Education, Authenticity, Collaboration, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment.

Abstract: This paper describes the work done within the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering group at Aston University to develop an Industry Club with the aim to enhance and strategically organise industry involvement in the taught programmes within the department. A subscription based model has been developed to allow the hiring of a part-time associate to manage the relationship with industry, academic and student partners and explore ways to develop provision. This paper describes the approach and some of the activities and outcomes achieved by the initiative.

 

Introduction

Industry is a key stakeholder in the education of engineers and the involvement of commercial engineering in taught programmes is seen as important within degrees but may not always be particularly optimised or strategically implemented.

Nonetheless, awareness of industry trends and professional practice is seen as vital to add currency and authenticity to the learning experience [1,2]. This industry involvement can take various forms including direct involvement with students in the classroom or in a more advisory role such as industrial advisory or steering boards [3] designed to support the teaching team in their development of the curriculum.

Direct input into the curriculum from industry normally involves engagement in dissertations, final year ‘capstone’ project exercises [4], visits [5], guest lectures [6,7], internships [8,9] or design projects [10,11]. These are very commonly linked to design type modules [12,13] or projects where the applied nature of the subject makes industrial engagement easier and are more commonly centred toward later years when students are perceived to have accrued the underpinning skills and intellectual maturity needed to cope with the challenges posed.

These approaches can however be ad hoc and piecemeal. Industry contacts used to directly support teaching are often tied into specific personal relationships through previous research or consultancy or through roles such as the staff involved also being careers or placement tutors. This means that there is often a lack of strategic thinking or sharing of contacts to give a joined up approach – an academic with research in fluid dynamics may not have an easy way to access industrial support or guidance if allocated a manufacturing based module to teach.

This lack of integration often gives rise to fractured and unconnected industrial involvement (Figure 1) with lack of overall visibility of the extent of industrial involvement in a group and lack of clarity on where gaps exist or opportunities present themselves.

 

Figure 1 : Industry involvement in degrees is often not as joined up as might be hoped.

 

As part of professional body accreditation it is also generally expected that Industrial Advisory Boards are set-up and meet regularly to help steer curriculum planning. Day to day pressures however often mean that these do not necessarily operate as effectively as they could and changes or suggestions proposed by these can be slow to implement.

Industry Club

To try to consolidate and develop engagement with industry a number of institutions have developed Industry Clubs [14,15] as a way of structuring and strategically developing industrial engagement in industry.

For companies, such a scheme offers a low risk, low cost involvement with the University, access to students to undertake projects and can also help to raise awareness in the students minds of companies and sectors which may not have the profile of the wider jobs market beyond the big players in the automotive, aerospace or energy sectors. At Aston University industry clubs have been running for several years in Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Computer Science.

The focus in this report is the setting up and development of the industry club in the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering (MBDE) department.

Recruitment of companies was via consolidation of existing contacts from within the MBDE department and engagement with the wider range of potential partners through the University’s ‘Research and Knowledge Exchange’ unit.

The industry focus within the club has been on securing SME partners. This is a sector which has been found to be very responsive. Feedback from these partners has indicated that often getting access to University is seen as ‘not for them’ but when an easy route in is offered, it becomes a viable proposition. By definition SMEs do not have the visibility of multi-nationals and so they can struggle to attract good graduates so the ability to raise brand awareness is seen as positive. From the perspective of academics, the very flat and localised management structure also makes for a responsive partner able to make decisions relatively quickly. Longer term this opens up options to explore more expansive relationships such as KTPs or other research projects and also sets up a network of different but compatible companies able to share knowledge among themselves.

Within MBDE the industry club initially focussed on placing industrially linked projects for final year dissertation students. This was considered relatively ‘low hanging fruit’ with a simple proposition for companies, academics and students.

While this proposal is straightforward it is not entirely without difficulty with matching of academics to projects, expectation management and practical logistics of diary mapping between partners all needing attention.

To support this, an Industry Club Associate was recruited to help manage the initiative, funding for this being drawn from industry partner subscriptions and underwritten by the department.

This has allowed the Industry Club to move beyond its initial basis of final year projects to have a much wider remit to oversee much of the involvement of industry in both the teaching programmes directly and in their advising and steering of the curriculum.

Figure 2 shows schematically the role and activities of the industry club within the group.

Impact Beyond Projects

The use of the Industry Club to co-ordinate and bolster other industry activity within the department has gone beyond final year projects. These can be seen in Figure 2.

The Industrial Advisory Board has now become linked to the Industry Club and so with partners now involved in the wider activities of the club involvement is now not exclusively limited to twice yearly meeting but is an active ongoing partnership using the projects, other learning and teaching activity and a LinkedIn group to create a more dynamic and responsive consultation body. A subset of the IAB is now also made up entirely of recent alumni to act as a bridge between the students and practising industry to help spot immediate gaps and opportunities to support students in this important transition.

 

Figure 2 : Industry Club set-up and Activity

 

The club has also developed a range of other industrially linked activities in support of teaching and learning.

While industrial involvement is relatively easy to embed in project or design type modules this is not so easy in traditional underpinning engineering science type activity.

To address the lack of industrial content in traditional engineering science modules a pilot interactive online case studies be developed to help show how fundamental engineering science can be applied in authentic industrial problems. A small team consisting of an academic, the industry club associate and an industrialist was assembled.

This team developed an online pump selection tool which combined interactive masterclasses and activities, introduced and explained by the industrialist to show how the classic classroom theory could be used and adapted in real world scenarios (Figure 3). This has been well-received by students, added authenticity to the curriculum and raised awareness in student minds of the perhaps unfashionable but important and rewarding water services sector.

 

Figure 3 : Online Interactive Activity developed as part of industry club activity

Further interactions developed by the Industry Club, and part of its remit to embed industrial links at all stages of the degree, include the involvement of an Industrial Partner on a major wind turbine design, build and test project engaged in as group exercises by all students in year one. Here the industrialist, a wind energy professional, contextualises work while his role is augmented by a recent alumni member of the Industrial board who is currently working as a graduate engineer on offshore wind and who completed the same module as the students four years or so previously.

Conclusion

While the development of the Industry Club and its associated activity can not be considered a panacea, it has significantly developed the level of industry involvement within programmes. More crucially it moves away from an opaque and piecemeal approach to industry engagement and offers a more transparent framework and structure on which to hang industry involvement to support academics and industry in developing and maximising the competencies of graduates.

References

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Prof Lucy Rogers (RAEng Visiting Professor at Brunel University, London and freelance engineering consultant) and Petra Gratton (Associate Dean of Professional Development and Graduate Outcomes in the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Science at Brunel University London, and Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering)

Keywords: Industry, Interview, Video, Real Life, Engineers

Abstract: A number of short videos that can be re-used in teaching undergraduate modules in Engineering Business, instead of inviting guest presentations. The interview technique got each individual to talk about their life experiences and topics in engineering business that are often considered mundane (or challenging) for engineers, such as ethics, risks and regulation, project management, innovation, intellectual property, life-cycle assessment, finance and creativity. They also drew attention to their professional development.

 

Project outcomes

The outcomes of this project are a number of short videos that were used, and can be re-used, in teaching delivery of an undergraduate module in Engineering Business in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Brunel University London instead of having guest presentations from invited speakers.  Lucy’s interview technique got the individuals featured in each film to talk about their life experiences and topics in engineering business that are often considered mundane (or challenging) for engineers, such as ethics, risks and regulation, project management, innovation, intellectual property, life-cycle assessment and finance; and drew attention to their professional development. 

The shorter videos were inspirational for students to make videos of themselves as part of the assessment of the module, which required them to carry out a personal professional reflection exercise and report upon what they had learned from the exercise in a simple 90-second video using their smartphone or laptop. 

Having used the videos with Brunel students, Lucy has made them available on her YouTube channel: Dr Lucy Rogers – YouTube. Each of the videos are listed in the following table:

 

Topic Who Video Link
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Reid Derby https://youtu.be/qQILO4uXJ24
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Leigh-Ann Russell https://youtu.be/LJLG2SH0CwM
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Richard Hopkins https://youtu.be/tLQ7lZ3nlvg
Corporate Social Responsibility Alexandra Knight
(Amey Strategic Consulting)
https://youtu.be/N7ojL6id_BI
Ethics and Diversity Alexandra Knight
(Amey Strategic Consulting)
https://youtu.be/Q4MhkLQqWuI
Project Management and Engineers Fiona Neads (Rolls Royce) https://youtu.be/-TZlwk6HuUI
Project Management – Life Cycle Paul Kahn
(Aerospace and Defence Industry)
https://youtu.be/1Z4ZXMLRPt4
Ethics at Work Emily Harford (UKAEA) https://youtu.be/gmBq9FIX6ek
Communication Skills at Work Emily Harford (UKAEA) https://youtu.be/kmgAlyz7OhI
Client Brief Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) https://youtu.be/WNYhDA317wE
Intellectual Property from Artist’s Point of View Dave Corney
(Artist and Designer)
https://youtu.be/t4pLkletXIs
Intellectual Property Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) https://youtu.be/L5bO0IdxKyI
Project Management Fiona Neads – Rolls Royce https://youtu.be/XzgS5SJhiA0

 

Lessons learned and reflections

We learned that students generally engaged with the videos that were used.  Depending which virtual learning environment (VLE) was being used, using pre-recorded videos in synchronous online lectures presents various challenges.  To avoid any unplanned glitches, in future we know to use the pre-recorded videos as part of the teaching-delivery preparation (e.g. in a flipped classroom mode). 

As part of her legacy, Lucy is going to prepare a set of simple instructions on producing video interviews that can be carried out by both staff and students in future.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Goudarz Poursharif (Aston University), Dr Panos Doss (Aston University) and Bill Glew (Aston University)

Keywords: WBL, Degree Apprenticeship, Engineering

Abstract: This case study presents our approach in the design, delivery, and assessment of three UG WBL Engineering Degree Apprenticeship programmes launched in January 2020 at Aston University’s Professional Engineering Centre (APEC) in direct collaboration with major industrial partners. The case study also outlines the measures put in place to bring about added value for the employers and the apprentices as well as the academics at Aston University through tripartite collaboration opportunities built into the teaching and learning methods adopted by the programme team.

This case study is presented as a video which you can view below: 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Prof Simon Barrans (University of Huddersfield), Harvey Kangley (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd), Greg Jones (University of Huddersfield) and Mark Newton (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd)

Keywords: Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Design and Innovation, Student Projects, Railway Infrastructure

Abstract: A six year collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Associated Utility Supplies Ltd has resulted in one completed and one ongoing KTP project, two successfully completed First of a Kind projects for the rail industry and the development of a new design department in the company. Benefits to the University include, graduate and placement student employment, industrially relevant final year and masters projects and the application of University research. Continued collaboration will generate a case study for the next REF. In this paper we explore the various mechanisms that have been used to facilitate this work.

 

The opportunity

Network Rail felt that their current supply chain was vulnerable with many parts being single source, some from overseas. They addressed this issue by engaging with SMEs who could develop alternative products. A local company, AUS, believed they could tackle this challenge but needed to develop their design and analysis capability. Their collaboration with the University of Huddersfield enabled this.

Seed funded taster projects

In 2016 AUS approached regional development staff at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, the University‘s business and innovation centre, with two immediate needs. These were: an explanation as to why a cast iron ball swivel clamp had failed in service, and a feasibility study to determine if a cast iron cable clamp could be replaced with an aluminium equivalent. Both these small projects were funded using the University’s Collaborative Venture Fund, an internal funding scheme to deliver short feasibility projects for industry. This incentivises staff to only engage in collaborations where there is a high expectation of significant external future funding, and which are low risk to an industry partner.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Projects

KTPs are managed by Innovate UK and are one of the few Innovate UK grants that are designed to have a university as the lead organisation. They are particularly attractive to SMEs as Innovate UK funds 67% of the project cost. The costs cover: the employment costs for a graduate, known as the Associate, who typically works full time at the company; an academic supervisor who meets with the Associate for half a day a week; and administrative support. The key measure of success of a KTP project is that it leaves the company generating more profit and hence, paying more tax. Increased employment is also desirable.

The first, three-year KTP project, applied for in January 2017 and started in June 2017, aimed to provide the company with a design and analysis capability. A Mechanical Engineering graduate from Huddersfield was recruited as the Associate and the Solidworks package was introduced to the company. A product development procedure was put in place and a number of new products brought to market. The Associate’s outstanding performance was recognised in the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020 and he has stayed with the company to lead the Product Innovation team.

The second, two-year KTP project started in November 2020 with the aim of expanding the company’s capability to use FRP materials. Whilst the company had some prior product experience in this area, they were not carrying out structural analysis of the products. FRP is seen as an attractive material for OLE structures as it is non-conductive (hence removing the need for insulators) and reduces mass (compared to steel) which reduces the size of foundations needed.

First of a kind (FOAK) projects

The Innovate UK FOAK scheme provides 100% funding to develop products at a high technology readiness level and bring them to market. They are targeted at particular industry areas and funding calls are opened a month to two months before they close. It is important therefore to be prepared to generate a bid before the call is made. FOAKs can and have been led by universities. In the cases here, the company was the lead as they could assemble the supply chain and route to market. The entire grant went to the company with the university engaged as a sub-contractor.

The first FAOK to support development of a new span-wire clamp was initially applied for in 2019 and was unsuccessful but judged to be fundable. A grant writing agency was employed to rewrite the bid and it was successful the following year. Comparing the two bids, re-emphasis of important points between sections of the application form and emphasising where the bid met the call requirements, appeared to be the biggest change.

The span-wire clamp is part of the head-span shown in figure 1. The proposal was to replace the existing cast iron, 30 component assembly with an aluminium bronze, 14 component equivalent, as shown in figure 2. The FOAK project was successful with the new clamp now approved for deployment by Network Rail.

The University contributed to the project by testing the load capacity of the clamps, assessing geometric tolerances in the cast parts and determining the impact that the new clamp would have on the pantograph-contact wire interface. This latter analysis used previous research work carried out by the University and will be an example to include in a future REF case study.

The second FOAK applied for in 2020 was for the development of a railway footbridge fabricated from pultruded FRP sections. This bid was developed jointly by the University and the company, alongside the resubmission of the span-wire FOAK bid. This bid was successful and the two projects were run in parallel. The footbridge was demonstrated at RailLive 2021.

Additional benefits to University of Huddersfield

In addition to the funding attracted, the collaboration has provided material for two MSc module assignments, six MSc individual projects and 12 undergraduate projects. The country of origin of students undertaking these projects include India, Sudan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria and Qatar. A number of these students intend to stay in the UK and their projects should put them in a good position to seek employment in the rail industry. A number of journal and conference papers based on the work are currently being prepared.

 

Figure 1. Head-span showing span-wires and span-wire clamp.

 

Figure 2. Old (left) and new (right) span-wire clamps.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Becky Selwyn (University of Bristol), David Pullinger (RINA) and Dr Irene Renaud-Assemat (University of New South Wales)

Keywords: Authentic Learning

Abstract: The academic approach to writing isn’t one that is often appropriate in industry – yet at university it is usually engineering academics who teach undergraduate engineers how to write. This is a problem frequently highlighted by industry. By working in partnership with industry to set an authentic writing challenge, we hoped to provide a sense of real-world purpose and give students a valuable formative opportunity to work on their writing skills for an industrial audience.

 

Aims of the activity

This case study aimed to address the discrepancy between industry expectations of student writing skills and the writing-related learning opportunities provided to students over the course of a typical degree programme at the University of Bristol.

The academics involved in this project had previously addressed poor technical writing skills among undergraduate (UG) students by providing scaffolded opportunities to practice and receive feedback on written laboratory reports in early years (e.g. [1] and [2]). However, informal conversations with an industry partner highlighted the need for students to also improve their writing skills for industrial audiences (e.g. clients or colleagues external to the immediate specialist team).

Existing written assignments are assessed mainly on their technical content, with a nominal portion of the mark awarded for writing skills. This project removed the focus from the technical work and placed it firmly on how well the recommendation is written for a specific audience, encouraging students to focus on developing their writing skills. The activity provided participants with a set of real client data to synthesise while producing a recommendation to be presented to the board of a fictional company.

Design of the activity

The activity was designed as follows:

This was an optional activity for students, and 11 2nd year UG students took part from Mechanical, Mechanical and Electrical, and Engineering Design programmes.

Outcomes

Students were surveyed at the start and end of the activity to investigate their motivation for taking part and their experience of the activity. Before taking part, students reported two main expectations: to improve their writing skills in the context of the industrial requirements, and to support their career aspirations. This latter aim was stated either in relation to networking with the industrial partner or in relation to adding the activity to their CV.

Feedback following completion of the activity was consistently positive. Students enjoyed the real-world application and experiencing a task that was representative of tasks the industrial partner undertakes, and also appreciated the networking opportunity provided by the partnership with industry.

Reflections and future work

Students were asked what they would change about the activity next time, and two themes emerged: a request to provide more examples or guidance on the style of writing required, and embedding the activity within the compulsory units in the programme. This latter theme ties in with the ongoing work within the department to improve the way we teach and assess writing skills throughout the programme.

From an academic perspective, the workload associated with developing and running the activity (3-4 hours) was relatively small compared to the positive experience reported by the participants. Although there were only a small number of participants, the activity could be scaled up relatively easily – either by continuing to use the information package provided by a single industrial partner, or by enlisting more partners to contribute similar tasks and allowing students to complete one or more of the tasks.

Industrial partner perspective

From an industrial perspective the time commitment associated with the activity was small (3-4 hours) and was outweighed by the benefits of being able to trial techniques to improve results-oriented writing. The difficulty that students experienced in distilling relatively simple information into a concise evidence-based decision was similar to the difficulties experienced by many established professionals in industry. The typical undergraduate writing style is to tell the story from beginning to middle to conclusion leading to tendencies for writers to be verbose and indirect. In industry the style of reporting often requires the approach to be flipped whereby the conclusion is the sole focus of the writing, this requires very short, unambiguous and direct writing. The approach to writing these different types of document is altogether different and requires practise to improve the quality of the author’s reports. Giving undergraduates more opportunities to write in different styles would improve their preparedness for working in an industrial role and also be a great benefit to graduate employers by way of having more highly skilled employees.

References

[1] Selwyn, R., & Renaud-Assemat, I. (2020). Developing technical report writing skills in first and second year engineering students: a case study using self-reflection. Higher Education Pedagogies5(1), 19-29. https://doi.org/10.1080/23752696.2019.1710550

[2] Selwyn, B., Renaud-Assemat, I., Lazar, I., & Ross, J. (2018). Improving student writing skills using a scaffolded approach. In Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium for Engineering Education (ISEE 2018) University College London.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Research, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Associate Prof Graeme Knowles (Director of Education Innovation, WMG), Dr Jane Andrews (Reader in STEM Education Research) and Professor Robin Clark (Dean WMG)

Keywords: Transformational Change, Industry-Education Partnerships, Educational Research, Scholarship

Abstract: The ‘Transforming Tomorrow’ Project is an example of how educational research may be used to inform and underpin change in engineering education. Building on previous research, the project provides an example of how research and scholarship may be used to effect transformational change by linking industrial requirements with educational strategy and practice. Bringing together theoretically grounded curriculum design with two years of educational research, mainly conducted during the pandemic, the primary output thus far is the development of a series of professional development workshops. Such workshops are aimed at preparing engineering educators to make sure that as WMG emerges out of the pandemic and into a time of unprecedented uncertainty and change, we continue to produce high quality graduates able to ‘hit the ground running’ upon entering employment. This short paper summarises the background to the project, discussing the methodology and providing exemplar data whilst also outlining the content of the workshops.

 

Introduction

WMG has a strong history of providing both practically relevant education and producing graduates who are able to impact the companies they work for from the earliest point of employment. The Department’s experience, built up over many years, has come about through the development of strong relationships between WMG colleagues and industry, through mutual understanding and the co-creation of relevant courses. However, as with the whole of the Higher Education Sector, WMG cannot afford to stand still. With the ever-increasing and dynamic demands of the Engineering Sector there is a constant need to reflect and consider whether impactful outcomes are still being realised.

The ‘Transforming Tomorrow’ Project is about taking a holistic view of the Department’s educational provision in order to understand the effectiveness of the provision from students’ perspective, whilst also taking account of the views and experiences of staff and industry employers. With the research underway, a number of datasets collected and emergent findings analysed, WMG has the basis with which to begin to affect transformational change both in our educational offerings and also in how we  better meet the needs of industry. This paper reports the first part of the Project.

Context

For many, the pace of change since the onset of Covid19 has been challenging. In WMG, having to completely reconfigure what is an exceptionally industrially focused curriculum and teach online took many by surprise. At the beginning of the Pandemic a critical literature review was undertaken looking at blended and  online learning; five key themes were identified:

  1. The need to adopt  a design approach to curriculum development
  2. The quality of the student experience
  3.  Student engagement
  4. The challenges and benefits of blended learning
  5. Student and academic perceptions of online learning

Each of these themes have in common the fact that the virtual learning approaches analysed and  discussed were developed over a significant period of time.   

Method and Findings

A mixed methodological approach was utilised starting with a quantitative survey of first year students and staff. This first survey, which took place in October 2021, focused on students’ perceptions of what types of learning approaches and techniques they expected to encounter whilst at university. Comprising a mixture of Degree Apprentices and Traditional Engineering undergraduates, the cohort were unique in that they had spent a significant part of their pre-university education learning from home during the lockdown. 

The results of the survey are given below in Figure 1 and reveal that, during the Pandemic at least,  engineering undergraduate students start university with the perception that they will be spending much of their time working independently and learning online.

 

Figure 1: First Year Engineering Students’ Expectations of Learning and Teaching at University: Mid-Pandemic (October 2021)

 

In looking at the above table one thing that immediately drew colleagues’ attention was that only half of the students expected to frequently encounter active learning approaches, and just under two-fifths anticipated frequently engaging in real-life work-related activities. Having given considerable thought as to how to assure that learning through the Pandemic maintained high levels of both these activities, this took colleagues by surprise. It also suggested  a lack of preparedness, on behalf of the students, to proactively engage in practical engineering focused education.

For the academic staff, a survey conducted at the same time sought to determine colleagues’ preferences in terms of teaching approaches. Figures 2 and 3 below provide an overview of the answers to two key questions…

 

 

 

This paper necessarily provides only a small insight into the research findings, in total over 1,300 undergraduate and postgraduate students and over 200 colleagues have participated in the research thus far. Analysing the findings and feeding-forward into the Education and Departmental Executive structures, the findings are being used to shape how education has continued under the lockdown (and will continue into the future).  With a firm-eye for the ever-changing requirements and expectations of industry, a series of pedagogical workshops grounded in the Project research findings have been developed. The aim of such workshops is to upskill academic colleagues in such a way so as to be able to guarantee that WMG continues to offer industrially relevant education as society moves out of the Pandemic and into an unknown future.

Moving Forward: Scholarship, Synergy & Transformational Change: Meeting the learning and teaching challenges of 21st Century Industry

Planning, the second stage of the Project has meant synthesizing the research findings with organisational strategy and industrial indicators to put in place a series of professional-development workshops for teaching colleagues. Each workshop focuses on a different area of educational practice and considers the needs of industry from a particular standpoint. Plans are underway to use the workshops themselves as opportunities to gather data using an Action Research Methodology and a Grounded Theory Philosophy. The Project is at best estimate, midway through its lifecycle, but may continue for a further two years depending on the Covid situation.

The planned workshops, which will be offered to colleagues throughout the Spring and Summer, 2022, will focus around six distinctive but interlinked topics:  

1. Teaching to Meet the Challenges of Industry

2. Student-Centred Active Learning

3. Growing independent learners

4. Levelling the Playing Field

5. Re-Designing what we do

6. Engineering  an environment for learning

Conclusion

In conclusion, society is entering what has been termed ‘the new normal’; for WMG, there is nothing ‘normal’ about what we do. We are entering a ‘Transformational Time’; a period when by completely changing and challenging our educational offerings and culture we will work with our industrial partners to purposefully disrupt  the ‘new normal’. In doing so we will continue to produce forward-thinking, flexible and synergetic learning experiences from which highly qualified graduates able to succinctly blend into the workplace will emerge. 

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Let us know what you think of our website