Category Archives: Education

Re-Thinking Engineering Education

Our Engineering Education System was designed over four hundred years ago. The world has changed a lot since then –  We have an infinite source of knowledge at our fingertips, thanks to Google and Wikipedia. We have access to the experts for every topic and can reach out to them with a simple tweet. We can learn from the world class educators on a wide range of topics, thanks to Coursera, Udacity, and EdX. I expect, every subject sooner or later will be available to learn online, so where does that leave the brick and mortar engineering institutes? More importantly, if we had all the powerful tools at our disposal that we do now, how would we re-design the engineering education?

Let’s start from the objective of an engineering institute. The final product of an engineering institute is its engineering graduate. An engineer by definition is someone who can devise and build new things. He should be able to turn an idea or a concept into a finished product. Last year 140,000 students graduated with engineering degrees. How many of these engineers are capable of building new products? To be fair, creating and building new things is not an easy task. Firstly, there is a lot of concepts to cover, and the students interest may vary across different industries and products. Secondly, the instructor teaching time is a finite resource. The good news is that both of these constraints can be beautifully addressed with the dawn of internet. Let’s take an example – a mechanical engineering graduate may end up working for automotive, mining, oil exploration, consumer device manufacturer, and so on in a wide variety of functional roles. Therefore, the curriculum had to cover all potential subjects such as fluid dynamics, heat and mass transfer, operations research. The graduate may never use any of these concepts all his life, but some one in the class might need them.There was no better solution, and we had to deal with this inefficiency. But not anymore, the internet can help us deliver customized education – perfectly suited to the student’s need and interest. The instructors don’t have to regurgitate the same content year in and year out. They can capture all necessary concepts in streams of 10-minute videos similar to Khan Academy. The students can then create a learning trail based on what they need to build a product.

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