The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering has created a new Department of Engineering Education (EED) to improve and enhance the learning experience for engineering students.
Faculty in the department will teach general engineering courses, including a first-year design class, courses for a graduate certificate in Engineering Education, and conduct fundamental and applied research in the discipline of Engineering Education.
The faculty will use evidence-based knowledge from their research to inform their teaching. The improved teaching methods will result in more engaged students and better learning outcomes, thus producing stronger engineers and enhanced employability of UF graduates.
Hans van Oostrom, Ph.D., will lead the new department as the founding chair. Dr. van Oostrom earned his M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. He helped build the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) graduate program at UF and led the development of the BME undergraduate program. In 2016, Dr. van Oostrom created the Institute for Excellence in Engineering Education, which formed the basis of the Department of Engineering Education. At the university level, Dr. van Oostrom is the co-chair of the University Curriculum Committee and a member of the Academic Policy Council.
“The field of Engineering is unique due to its wide breadth of subject areas that incorporate an extensive study of fundamentals as well as a vast body of experiential learning,” said Dr. van Oostrom. “The department specializes in engineering education research and the delivery of innovative and effective instructional methods in engineering undergraduate courses, as well as assessment. Our faculty design and teach large-enrollment undergraduate engineering courses that span multiple majors using methods that promote conceptual understanding and student retention. We perform research into the effectiveness of learning methods and continually strive to improve and adapt course content and delivery methods to serve students and faculty throughout the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.”
Two new buildings on the UF campus will house the new teaching approaches. The iClassroom will function as a testbed for the use of new technologies in education. In addition, it will be a place where vendors and tech developers can test the real world educational applications of their inventions. Teaching will occur as students use the devices, improving upon some, identifying flaws in others. The iClassroom will move into the Data Science and IT (DSIT) building, once the planned $70 million, 260,000-square-foot structure is built.
In the new Herbert Wertheim Laboratory for Engineering Excellence, due to open in spring 2020, students will find an opportunity to participate in experiential learning during their very first year.
The “Herbie Lab” will be home to the First Year Design Lab, a space where students will come together to consider issues related to today’s complex society to design and build engineering solutions for those problems. “Traditionally, students do not experience the interdisciplinary approach to tackling societal issues until their capstone design classes near the time of graduation,” Dr. van Oostrom said. “With the First Year Design course, we will capture their imaginations and instill the vision of becoming the New Engineer during their first year. This will help them set firm goals for succeeding in subsequent rigorous engineering coursework.”
One of the research efforts being undertaken by EED is the digital literacy moonshot, a multi-disciplinary strategic initiative led by Dr. van Oostrom and his team, aimed to increase the digital literacy of all UF students. “We envision a classroom that integrates the physical and virtual worlds, where students have goggles on, and they have their own individual instructor, a virtual instructor, who will teach them some of the basics,” Dr. van Oostrom says. “Then afterward, perhaps the students work together on a project. Students who need more help can get more help. Students who have grasped a concept can move on. Learning is virtually personalized and customized.”
UF is the first university in Florida and one of only 18 universities in the United States to establish a totally dedicated engineering education department that offers programs, degrees and/or certificates in engineering education research and pedagogy. The University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering is proud to fully establish the Department of Engineering Education starting fall 2019.