A Method for assessing required course-related skills and prerequisite structure
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The curricula in engineering and engineering technology programs should be dynamic with a goal of constant improvement and refinement. Unfortunately, this is often not the case; courses are developed, altered, and expanded in a piecemeal manner. Rarely is there a holistic top down examination of desired input and output skills for individual courses and a discussion surrounding course organization. Namely, as time progresses many programs end up with courses that developed not a developed curriculum. As part of a strategic planning exercise at a combined Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology Program, a team was tasked with examining the curriculum to determine if its organization and coverage were appropriate. The first step in this process involves the solicitation of a set of skills that faculty desire from incoming students; faculty are also asked to provide a set of skills they hope students will acquire in their course. The entire list of skills is then clarified with duplicates eliminated. The list is then given to faculty and members of the program's industrial advisory committee (IAC) to determine if any skills are obsolete or missing from the list. This refined list serves as a basis for discussion regarding the addition or elimination of certain skills and their place in the curriculum. Finally, the courses incorporating the skill inputs and outputs associated with them are placed in a design structure matrix (DSM) to help determine prerequisite structure and identify any courses with cyclic dependencies. This work presents general findings from this set of exercises and discusses relevant feedback from both faculty and IAC members. The findings highlight the importance of project management, communication skills, problem solving skills, and business knowledge. The DSM is used to identify key courses that interact with numerous other courses. © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education.
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