Project Based Learning as a Catalyst for Academic Evolution and as an Incubator for Academic Innovation
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As engineering education at the undergraduate level continues to evolve, the support structure required for educational approaches such as Project-Based Learning (PBL) is expanding to include not only the Department, College, and University levels, but also significant commitments from industrial partners. While the benefits of project based learning approaches are clear, there are a number of challenges in establishing and maintaining the deep level of institutional and industrial interaction required to create a successful program.
This paper discusses several approaches adopted by the Project Based Learning Institute (PBLI) in developing project-centered relationships with external organizations. PBLI serves as an academic incubator that has been used to overcome institutional inertia by creating a structure that lies outside existing well-established "territories". It discusses the self supporting nature of the approach, which allows resource issues which typically shackle initiatives to be obviated. It describes how the program has developed into a catalyst for industry participation that benefits both students and corporate sponsors. It describes the how the juxtaposition of high-potential faculty, coupled with incentives for multidisciplinary faculty collaboration, enriches the educational experience for students. The outcome is underpinned by vehicles that couple industry interests to university resources. This system, which hinges on an effective mechanism to uncover and respond to industry needs, creates an environment capable of educating an engineering graduate who is steeped in multidisciplinary, who is exceptionally team-oriented and who is more able to function in today's complex environment.
Daniel Walsh, Robert Crockett, and M. Zahed Sheikholeslami. "Project Based Learning as a Catalyst for Academic Evolution and as an Incubator for Academic Innovation" Proceedings of the 38th Frontiers in Education Conference: Saratoga Springs, NY.. Oct. 2008.
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