Deakin University
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Engineering fundamentals in a new undergraduate curriculum

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conference contribution
posted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by John LongJohn Long, Sivachandran Chandrasekaran, Julius Orwa
In recent years there has been a push in Engineering education to change the basic model from
students learning discrete subjects, followed by design projects in third and fourth year, to learning
and practicing the design process from the first year. At the same time, there has also been a push
towards “active learning” (Prince, 2004) as opposed to the more traditional lecture/tutorial/practical
approach. This year, Deakin University has launched a new design-centred curriculum in
undergraduate engineering. Named “Project-Oriented Design-Based Learning” (PODBL), the new
course structure is running in first and second years. In semester one of first year in the new course,
students enrol in one double-unit of design, one unit of maths, and one unit of fundamental science.
This work seeks to determine whether a new fundamental-science unit called “Engineering
Fundamentals” fulfils the educational needs of first-year students in the PODBL curriculum. It also
seeks to determine student perceptions of the new unit.
The unit was first offered in semester-one, 2016 to two separate on-campus cohorts and an offcampus
cohort. Innovations in this unit include using the CADET model for teaching combined
practical-tutorial seminars, a shift in lectures from delivering conceptual content to teaching problem
solving and applications (flipping the classroom), and extensive use of online videos and study guides
for delivering primary content (Cloud Learning). Student learning was assessed by means of problembased
online quizzes, practical reports, and a final exam. Student perceptions were queried by a
standard unit-evaluation system and by a more focussed set of surveys given to students in three
separate cohorts.
The academic results in this unit were compared with those in the previous unit. No substantial
differences were observed in the marks of this unit in 2016 compared with the 2015 marks of the
corresponding previous physics unit. On-campus students showed more general satisfaction with the
unit than did off-campus students. However, not all on-campus students were happy with the flippedclassroom
As the course changes from a traditional approach to a design and project-based approach, it is best if
all units in the course adapt in some way to the new teaching style. Not all units need be completely
project or design based. In the case of “Engineering Fundamentals,” we believe that due to the wide
variety of topics covered, making the entire unit design-based is inappropriate. However, some design
and project components can be built into the unit via the practicals. Semester one 2016 was a
successful first offering of the unit. We recommend that in future years a design/project component be
considered for the unit’s practicals.



Australasian Association for Engineering Education. Conference (27th : 2016 : Coffs Harbour, New South Wales)


1 - 11


Australasian Association for Engineering Education


Coffs Harbour, New South Wales

Place of publication

Canberra, A.C.T.

Start date


End date




Publication classification

E Conference publication; E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2016, The Authors

Title of proceedings

AAEE 2016 : The changing role of the engineering eductator for developing the future engineer : Proceedings of the 27th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference

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