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Rensselaer's Electrical Engineering Department Wins Praise From Peers

Thu, 2001-04-26 11:09 -- Anonymous

April 26, 2001

Troy, N.Y. — Rensselaer’s department of electrical, computer, and systems engineering (ECSE) was recently awarded an Innovative Program Award for its success in the implementation of studio courses. The award, given by the National Electrical Engineering Department Heads Association (NEEDHA), has been given only twice in the last 10 years.

Since the mid-1990s, ECSE has revised most of its core undergraduate courses to the studio format as part of Rensselaer’s pioneering efforts in interactive learning. In addition to designing and building studio classrooms specifically for ECSE courses, the department also developed a large body of interactive multimedia materials to help make the studio environment effective.

Studio classes combine classical learning activities, from lecture to discussion to paper and pencil problem solving to experiments, with hardware, computer simulation and experimentation. Students learn in a collaborative environment by doing and teaching others with help from the faculty. A key advantage to the studio format is that students can apply their knowledge immediately to experiments without having to wait a week or longer for a traditional laboratory course. Such classes help to increase student motivation, understanding, and retention of knowledge and build collaboration skills that are essential for today’s business and industry.

Adding studio courses to the core undergraduate curricula has resulted in a more educationally rewarding experience and a more fertile environment in which to develop faculty as teachers, said Ken Connor, acting ECSE chair.

Connor told the NEEDHA audience that it was an honor to be recognized by one’s peers and emphasized the team effort required for the success of the program.

“This work involved the efforts of essentially all of the staff and faculty of the ECSE department,” said Connor. “We worked hard to create our studio-based curricula. Now the leaders of all of the other electrical engineering, computer science, and similar academic departments around the country have seen that we did something very special.”

The success of studio learning at Rensselaer is reaching other universities. Several schools have begun to implement their own version of studio courses, including City University in Hong Kong and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Contact: Patricia Azriel
Phone: (518) 276-6531
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