Curricular Reform Efforts
To support the strategic goals of the College of Engineering, a curricular review and reform effort began in 2017. With the goals of rebuilding the requirements for 16 undergraduate programs, improving first-year retention and six-year graduation rates, and expanding co-curricular activities to support the undergraduate experience, the college has established a three-phase plan:
- Replace the pro-school with a continuous progression model (completed Fall 2019).
- Redefine the first-year engineering experience with curricular upgrades and new co-curricular opportunities to increase likelihood of student success (Fall 2020 and Fall 2021).
- Reform curriculum and requirements for 16 undergraduate programs beyond the first year (starting Fall 2021).
The multiyear project is the result of a cooperative effort from the college and the five schools. The taskforce, led by Jason Ideker, Bryony DuPont, Carlos Jensen, and Belinda Batten, will continue to guide faculty and advisors through the final curriculum reform.
Continuous Progression Model
The first phase of academic reform was completed in 2019, when the pro-school academic structure was replaced by the continuous academic progression model. In shifting to a progression model, advisors and faculty have become more involved and aware of students’ ongoing academic progress. This awareness allows for earlier intervention and more effective support for struggling students.
This change improved on the pro-school model, which had a single review point when students applied to pro-school and upper-division courses. Advisors reported instances in which students repeated the same course multiple times to raise their GPA for entrance into pro-school. These attempts represent years of time and thousands of student dollars spent, with no progress to show. The academic progression model now connects students to college and campus resources that can support their needs, which should lead to higher success and graduation rates.
First-Year Engineering Experience
At the core of the FYEE effort is an updated first-year curriculum that builds on existing introductory engineering coursework. Currently, a two-term orientation course covers basic engineering principles. Starting in fall 2020, General Engineering and declared students in the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering will participate in a three-quarter program that will foster a sense of community within the engineering student cohort and introduce students to real-world engineering challenges.
The three core themes of the new curriculum will include:
- Engineering grand challenges and the Oregon State engineering student.
- Design engineering and problem-solving.
- Engineering computation and algorithmic thinking.
The second curricular goal of the FYEE efforts is to introduce more engineering coursework into the first-year experience. Due to the need for a solid STEM foundation, most first-year classes are in the College of Science. By the time students reach relevant engineering coursework, they are well into their undergraduate program. As such, many engineering out-transfers migrate to COS. By engaging students in engineering challenges early in their academic journey, they will be better prepared for engineering coursework and more likely to graduate with an engineering degree.
The third goal is to reduce class size in orientation courses, which currently enroll several hundred students per lecture section. Such large class sizes do not help students develop a stronger understanding of the engineering profession or specific majors. Additionally, incoming students who have AP credits or community college experience report that the coursework lacks challenges. The new courses will have lectures with about 100 students and labs with 25 students. The improved student-teacher ratio should lead to increased engagement and performance.
The first-year curriculum and START orientation will be supported by a variety of co-curricular programming to encourage the major exploration and community building needs of the students.
- Program videos: Videos were produced for the 2019 START program, held during orientation and before enrollment, which introduced new students to all of the 16 majors and engineering career opportunities.
- Engineering Fridays: This events- and activities-based program will include makerspace challenges, hackathons, and guest lectures that encourage exploration of different engineering opportunities. The program should roll out in fall 2020 on a trial basis to assess the best implementation of this experiential learning opportunity.
- First-year mentorships: First-year engineering students will build connections with upper-division students. More experienced students can help acclimate new students, pass along study skills, and share a variety of firsthand experiences with research projects, internships, and academic challenges. Ultimately, these relationships will further serve the goals of increased student retention and success through the program.
- Continued development of the Leadership Academy and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Both organizations focus on preparing students for engineering careers and building ties within the engineering student community.
Major Curriculum Reflow
The final phase of undergraduate curricular reform will involve the review and reflow of all 16 undergraduate programs in the college. Student outcomes and educational objectives will be reviewed to ensure that the training provided by Oregon State will produce the valued engineers that Oregon and the rest of the world demand.
The first-year changes are already underway with the FYEE plan to move from two to three orientation classes. General and NSE orientation coursework will be approved for fall 2020 courses. Once the Faculty Senate has approved the first-year curriculum for the rest of the programs, work will begin on updating course learning outcomes for all engineering courses. Final approval of revised undergraduate majors is expected in 2022.