As part of a department-wide assessment that may lead to curriculum changes and operation changes, 25 graduating ME seniors were interviewed last spring about the ME program they were about to complete. Students were selected randomly and interviewed individually and anonymously by professional assessors.
Professor John W. Mitchell presented the comments from the assessment report of the spring's graduating students to the faculty at an August retreat.
In general, the interviewers found, ME undergraduates are satisfied with their choice of mechanical engineering as a major, but they found areas for improvement. They were very satisfied with certain laboratory courses but dissatisfied with several of the laboratory courses that did not provide enough time or background to learn the material. In some class situations, they found formal lectures to be ineffective compared with more active learning through teamwork, quizzes, and homework.
The students said that they were not always able to perceive how courses fit together or how they were relevant, especially in the lower division, but that they often finally achieved some of that understanding belatedly when they took the Engineering Capstone Design Projects class and when they had co-op experience. Many said that ME provided good course scheduling advice through the flow chart, but little on academic and career advising.
The interviews also discovered that students needed considerably more than 120 credits and more than eight semesters to graduate. Many students took fewer than 15 credits per semester because of the heavy workload.
Half of the students interviewed intend to go into design and manufacturing and one-third into consulting and research and development. Two of the 25 intended to go to graduate school.
The comments of alumni of the 1994 class will be available later, and interviews with the class of 1998 will also be conducted next spring.
To address these issues brought out by the student interviews, the ME
faculty began the process of discussion that will bring changes before
the year 2000 when the Accreditation Board for Engineering and
Technology (ABET) makes its next visit. Among the issues on the table
and their implications are these: Curriculum integration, academic
advising, time it takes to obtain a bachelor's degree along with the
number of courses and the workload, teaching methods that result in
the most effective learning, and laboratory experiences. Assessment
techniques must show ABET that the student outcomes are meeting the
educational goals set by the department.
ME Newsletter is a periodic publication of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Correspondence should be sent to the address below.
Editor: Gail Gawenda
Designer: Lynda Litzkow
NOVEMBER 1997 Contents