The Development of an Online Problem Based Learning Environment to Support the Development of Engineering Professional Practice Skills: The Virtual Engineering Consultancy Company (VECC)
Robert Corderoy, Paul Cooper, Centre for Educational Development and lnteractive Resources Departrnent of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering University of Wollongong, Australia
Indian Journal of Open Learning Volume 9, Number 3, ISSN 0971-2690 Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Open University
A well designed PBL environment can assist and support students in building heuristics that will enhance their ability to solve problems in the real world. Problem based learning is situated in the context of a meaningful 'real world' based environment which draws on 'real variables' without the 'risk factor' normally associated with everyday practice. A well structured PBL environment poses an illstructured, 'real World'based problem which drives the learning. The problem leads students to identify their need to learn new knowledge in order to solve the problem. Posing the problem before learning takes place provides relevance, challenge and interest, and is a powerful motivational strategy.This paper reports on the development of online, problem based learning (PBL) environment (the VECC) in which students develop and practice engineering consultancey skills. Evaluation of the pilot implementation with 3rd year Engineering students at the University of Wollongong is briefly outlined.The VECC models the skills and processes of an 'expert onsultant' "a professional engineer" in the field of Heat Transfer within a supported learning environment so that 'novice'student's develop apporpriate problem solving skills vital for their later engineering practice. The power of a web-based environment to provide platform which supports both synchronous and asynchronour computer mediated communication enables students to interact with a virtual client in an environment which is "safe" and highly flexible. Thie latter feature is particularly important as many student engineers have limited time and resources and must often fit their training into existing work sct)edules.
Corderoy, R. & Cooper, P. (2000). The Development of an Online Problem Based Learning Environment to Support the Development of Engineering Professional Practice Skills: The Virtual Engineering Consultancy Company (VECC). Indian Journal of Open Learning, 9(3), 339-350. Indira Gandhi National Open University.