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A fifteen year journey to a unique program in engineering : WIL, PBL, professional practice and e-learning
The Faculty of Sciences Engineering and Health at Central Queensland University, Queensland, Australia is offering an innovative and, it is believed, unique Bachelor of Engineering program. This program integrates Work Integrated Learning, Project Based Learning, Professional Practice development and e-Learning for both internal and distance students. The program is offered over three campuses. In doing so the faculty has redefined the way in which engineering can, and it is believed, should be delivered. In 1993 the faculty began reinventing its professional engineering degree programs with the implementation of co-operative education or Work Integrated Learning (WIL). The new program commenced in 1994. The program curricula was restructured to include two six month co-operative education work placement periods, with the first placement to be offered in the third year of the program in 1996. In the second placement, in the latter half of fourth year, students were provided with an opportunity to undertake their second six month work placement as an overseas placement. In 1997 the on-campus elements of the program were reviewed, with a new program incorporating significant changes being introduced in 1998. This review was in response to a range of stimuli, including, a need to better prepare students for their work placements, a recognition of the fundamental problems with the old program structure, and a recognition of the need to respond to significant social changes. The changes incorporated affected both curriculum and pedagogy, and were characterised by the introduction of Project Based Learning (PBL) and the incorporation of an ‘inverted curriculum’. PBL was incorporated in all years of the program with generic professional practice skills forming a significant explicit component in the early years, tapering off toward the end of the program, whilst the converse is the case for technical discipline knowledge and skills. The development of the combined PBL/WIL engineering program was the result of extensive national and international study. The combined program provided context for holistic student learning and practice, and an integrated learning environment. In a later development in early 2004, the professional practice learning in the Bachelor of Engineering (Co-operative Education) program was explicitly and formally recognized. This was accomplished by a change to an integrated dual award program, the Bachelor of Engineering (Co-operative Education)/Diploma of Professional Practice (Engineering).The latest developments within the program have been incorporated in 2007, with the offering of both the first and second year of the program on three campuses, and all years in distance mode. The further enhancement of e-Learning within the program has included webcam conferencing between students and three campus locations i.e. Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone using “Click to Meet” and “Scopia”. We have also introduced Citrix Main Frame Application Delivery via the web for Applications such as Matlab, Microsoft Office, Cad Applications, Strand 7 and Visual Studio.This paper presents the history, issues, development and implementation of this unique engineering program.