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posted by n1 on Wednesday June 11 2014, @06:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the and-called-it-the-internet dept.

Purdue University researchers who developed a new approach to more effectively teach large numbers of engineering students are recommending that the approach be considered for adoption by universities globally.

The system, called the Purdue Mechanics Freeform Classroom, allows students to interact with each other and faculty online while accessing hundreds of instructional videos and animations. It was pioneered by Charles Krousgrill, a professor of mechanical engineering, and has been used for more than two years in two mechanical engineering core courses with hundreds of students enrolled annually.

"Data analysis shows that the students are really engaging our materials, and it is having a marked effect on student performance," said Krousgrill, who is working with Jeffrey Rhoads an associate professor of mechanical engineering, Eric Nauman, a professor of mechanical engineering, and Beth Holloway, assistant dean for undergraduate education in Purdue's College of Engineering. "We'd really like to see this expand beyond the borders of Purdue and are working now to make it happen."

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Grishnakh on Wednesday June 11 2014, @02:40PM

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @02:40PM (#54156)

    What they need to do is teach people to work in open-plan work environments. Towards this end, they should, for example, have engineering exams out in busy hallways with lots of people walking right by students' desks and talking loudly. In addition, at random points during the test, every 10 minutes or so, some loud-talking, annoying person should go to each student and interrupt him/her with some meaningless blather. If you can't concentrate in such an environment, you have no business being an engineer.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:31PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @03:31PM (#54187)
    How could you leave out the incessant chewing noises?
  • (Score: 1) by Hyperturtle on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:08PM

    by Hyperturtle (2824) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:08PM (#54339)

    I would agree with this, but I counter it with it having to be a genuine workplace disturbance emulation.

    When I am at the main office, my boss appears every 10 minutes to try to find out what I am doing, because thinking has to involve something greater than sitting quietly. If he is not there to manage me, it's clearly a failure in leadership. He will appear with a critical cursor blinking or mousepad delivery issue for a marketing concern, and it doesn't matter if the consultant is charging $165 an hour and in the middle of a call -- get out and deliver the mousepads. The no-skilled warm body nearby that wasn't in the line of sight will continue to wear earbuds and look busy.

    The true measure of skill for an engineer is not only being able to think in a noisy environment, but also to be able to master the art of looking busy.

    I have my own home office with more hardware than my employer has, so I generally work from there when not at a customer. To do a quality job, write quality documentation, and make good designs--you shouldn't have to put up with that level of disruption. I completely agree that one must learn how to focus with disruption around you, because it will not always be ideal and dangerous to assume that it will be.

    Being able to distance oneself from the din can backfire, though -- I've had people walk up and start talking to me and then get offended that I was ignoring them. I wasn't ignoring them -- I was ignoring everything because it was the only way to work. I've had to train people to say my name if they want to speak to me, because otherwise I can't concentrate and listen in case someone started to speak -- people already are doing that and not necessarily to me!

    In any event, the best quality of work will likely be done in an ideal environment. If an employer can't be bothered to understand what it takes for people to think, then they shouldn't be surprised when the quality of work suffers, or people that are good thinkers but easily distracted end up under-performing despite everything else going quite well. Open environments are not one-size-fits all, but engineers shouldn't assume they can be secluded, either.

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Thursday June 12 2014, @02:23PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday June 12 2014, @02:23PM (#54601)

      Open environments are not one-size-fits all, but engineers shouldn't assume they can be secluded, either.

      Right, and this is why I discourage anyone from going into engineering or software development if they can't thrive in an open, noisy environment, because that's all there is these days.