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ENE Memo: February 11, 2013

From the Head - 2/11

Inputs or Outcomes

In case you are wondering whatever happened to the trimester idea at Purdue, the conversation is continuing - in interesting ways. You can find an eclectic set of discussion papers on the Provost’s trimester web page, including a memo from 1970 on the topic!  It also includes the 100 questions that arose from a faculty senate meeting last October. Senate presentations and documents are available, and a video of the senate meeting is posted to the Purdue YouTube channel.

Before we move (or not) to a “balanced trimester,” the university is striving to build up its summer program. Through the use of some funding incentives, they have increased the number of summer courses in 2013 from that in 2012; they have grown the supply side. Now they plan to grow the demand side (Professor Frank Dooley, who is the designated warrior for trimesters at Purdue, is an economist).  So last week the university launched a new campaign called “Think Summer,” to encourage students to take more summer classes. Out of this 'one step at a time' approach to a possible balanced trimester solution comes the concept of adopting a 14/14/7/7 timetable – i.e. a 14-week Fall, a 14-week Spring and 2 x7 week Summer (see the 100 questions). This idea has led to some interesting calculus around estimating the equivalent instructional time for a credit hour in a 16-week versus a 14-week semester.

However, the real opportunity presented by a timetable change is the chance to re-think the credit hour and to move from an instructor-centric model to a learner-centric one. Rather than measuring how much instruction is provided, we should be thinking in terms of how much time a student should expect to spend on a course in order to master the material. In contrast to the century old Carnegie Unit (or credit hour) used in the USA, the new European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is based on student learning; a year of full-time study is 60 credits and with the workload on students ranging from 1500 to 1800 hours for an academic year, so one credit generally corresponds to 25-30 hours of work. I come from a university system which in the early 1990s adopted a system of metrics called the credit point that represented the average time per week that the average student should engage actively in learning, in formal and informal settings, in order to obtain an average grade. Course were typically 10 or 12 credit points and there were 4 or 5 per semester or an expectation of 48-60 hrs per week of student effort. In engineering, we profess to be outcomes-based per EC 2000 and the ABET criteria, yet much of our operational world remains input-oriented.   

In the light of changes in the higher education landscape such as MOOCs, plus the rising public and political concern about college affordability, time to degree, and value for money, some groups are questioning the veracity of the credit hour as the prevailing metric. This is part of a much longer conversation about measuring results in higher education and is a step towards trying to directly measure learning outcomes or student attainment rather than explicitly or implicitly focusing on instructor inputs or even time spent learning by a student. There is more to the trimester debate than first meets the eye.


"Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it." - Marian Wright Edelma

Calendar - 2/11

Spring 2013

  • Feb 13: Faculty Meeting (8:30-9:20)
  • Feb 14: ENE Research Seminar: Developing, Studying, and Sharing a Longitudinal Database of Student Educational Records
  • Feb 17-23: National Engineers Week
  • Feb 20: Engineering Education Outstanding Alumni Awards
  • Mar 5:   Distinguished Speaker Series - Professor Jim Duderstadt  3:30-4:30, pm Kurz Atrium, Armstrong Hall
  • Mar 6:   Faculty Meeting (8:30-9:20)
  • Mar 26: Distinguished Speaker Series  - Professor Dan Mote  3:30-4:30 pm, Kurz Atrium, Armstrong Hall
  • Mar 27: Faculty Meeting (8:30-9:20)
  • April 4: Distinguished Speaker Series - Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd - 3:00-4:00 pm, Kurz Atrium, Armstrong Hall 
  • April 5:  Faculty Excellence Awards
  • April 8-9: Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council (E2IAC) - Theme: ENE's Second Decade
  • April 9: Distinguished Speaker Series - Norm Augustine  10:30-11:30 am, Kurz Atrium, Armstrong Hall 
  • April 24: Faculty Meeting (8:30-9:20)
  • May 8-9: ENE Advance (9-4) - ENE's Second Decade

Summer 2013

  • June 17 - July 11:  STAR(Student Transition, Advising and Registration)

Fall 2013

  • Aug 14: ENE Faculty Advance 
  • Aug 19: Classes Begin
  • Sept 27: 2nd Annual First-Year Engineering Friday
  • Sept 28 Homecoming & Family Weekend
  • TBD:   ABET Site Visit (Mon + Tues; most likely in Oct or Nov
  • Nov 8: Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council (E2IAC) 
  • Nov 9: ENE Friends at the Football
  • Nov 14: 3rd Annual Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium

Kudos - 2/11 Krishna Madhavan, Heidi Diefes-Dux, and Bill Oakes on a new $14.5 million NSF grant aimed at taking to the next level. Krishna is co-principal investigator on the grant. Heidi will lead curricular integration at the undergraduate level and also is incorporating modeling using nanoHUB. Bill is leading nanoHUB EPICS, focusing on K-12 education. Read more about the grant here:

News and Information - 2/11

New Scheduling System for i2i Learning Lab

A new system for scheduling the i2i Learning Lab for events is in place at: (please bookmark). Here, you can see the schedule for the Design Studio, Demonstration Studio, and Innovation Studio and submit requests for the different studios. When you submit a request, you will receive an auto-generated email informing you that your request has been submitted, and you will be contacted in the near future about your request. We hope you find this system intuitive and convenient.

Please note about the Summer 2013 i2i lab schedule: Major upgrades will be taking place in the i2i lab this summer, including upgrades to the computers, projector system, table wiring, a drop ceiling installed in the Innovation Studio, and furniture upgrades in the Demo and Innovation Studio. Holding events in the i2i lab this summer will likely be very difficult with construction and upgrade schedules. At this time, we recommend that you look at alternative locations for summer 2013 events. Please contact Eric Holloway with any concerns about the summer schedule.


This Week's Research Seminar

Thu, Feb 14, 2013
SEMINAR: Developing, Studying, and Sharing a Longitudinal Database of Student Educational Records
Dr. Matt Ohland
Professor, School of Engineering Education


To suggest content for future issues of ENE Memo, contact David Radcliffe or Lisa Tally by midday Friday for the following week's issue.