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The application of learning skills in an engineering programme

Author - Leslie Shoemaker


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Observations to date

The feedback from both current and former students as well as programme staff is that the module is a success. One observable trend that has emerged is an improvement in retention of the first year students. During the 2001/02 academic year, 58 per cent of first year students were eligible to progress into the second year. This increased to 61 per cent during the 2003/04 academic year (Costello 2005). At the time of writing, statistics for the 2004/05 academic year have yet to be published.

Still, as has been pointed out, not all retention issues can be eliminated, and nor should they be. Instead there should be a monitoring system to understand the reason(s) for the withdrawal (Moore 2006). This type of monitoring began in the Department of Electrical Services degree programme three years ago. The one main trend that has emerged is that the majority of first year students have left this programme to make a lateral move into an Electrical Apprenticeship (Shoemaker 2005).

Another positive development that has been observed is how at least 80 per cent of graduates have been successful in locating employment in the area of Electrical Services Engineering. This has been a constant since the first set of students completed the programme in 2001. In addition, many of those students who do not enter the job market immediately choose to continue their studies within other DIT engineering programmes or other institutions in Ireland and/or the UK (Harding 2006). Finally, the module received special recognition and praise from the Validation Committee during the most recent validation process in March 2004.

Conclusions

The implementation of learning skills within the core curriculum of a third level engineering programme can be of benefit to the current and future needs of the students – in both the academic and personal arenas. These learning skills have been integrated into a first and second year ordinary degree programme in the Department of Electrical Services Engineering in the DIT. Based on qualitative data it has been shown that retention rates have improved and that the programme has assisted students with their transition to third level education. By providing an environment in which to develop and learn such skills, the Academic Development and Key Skills module represents a move towards addressing the holistic needs of the student population. Future research will be conducted in order to measure the impact of these enhancements.


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