2019 CSCE Annual Conference - Laval (Greater Montreal)

2019 CSCE Annual Conference - Laval (Greater Montreal) Conference

Problem Based Learning for reinforcing Engineering Education in the Universities of Technologies in South Africa

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Dr. Dillip Das, Central University of Technology, Free State (Presenter)
Ms. Yali Woyessa, Central University of Technology, Free State

Universities of Technologies (UoT) in South Africa generally follow Outcomes Based Education (OBE) in which Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is an indispensable element. However, in the recent re-curriculation and adoption of new qualifications both at the Diploma and Bachelors level in Engineering and Technology education, the WIL component is not anymore compulsory to obtain a qualification.  So, the students may not have any work place training or experience during their study, which may put them at risk with regards to obtain the requisite graduate attributes of applying the knowledge, analysing, designing or problem solving and become industry relevant. Problem Based Learning (PBL) is argued to offer the opportunities of hands on experience on practical problem solving within an academic environment, which could suffice to the needs of the students to become industry relevant. Therefore, the objective of this study is to examine the relevancy and implications of the PBL in Engineering Education and the process of its integration in under graduate engineering programmes in the UoTs of South Africa. The study largely relied on the lessons learned from the industry based PBL workshops conducted by considering undergraduate engineering students including that of civil engineering and problems related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations.  Also, a survey was conducted to collect data from the participants in the workshop. Also, a focus group discussion was conducted. Quantitative statistical analyses of data collected and qualitative narrative analysis of the perceptions of the stakeholders and content analyses of the student projects conducted during the workshops were conducted.  Findings suggest that although it was contextualised in a controlled academic environment, PBL is relevant to engineering students as it provided them the opportunity to deal with practical problems with the assistance of both academicians and industry partners. Also, it is found that it was acceptable, created an environment for constructive engagement among the students and teachers, and provided freedom to analyse the situation, apply knowledge and explore innovation in the problem solving. In other words, it reinforced the student learning through the hands on exercise on the projects they conducted and explore engineering solutions. Further, this paper argues that PBL can reinforce the student learning if it can be integrated to the learning programmes through aligning the student projects or assignments with industry problems as well as aligning them constructively in terms of Intended Learning Outcomes, teaching and learning activities and assessment tasks.