Rensselaer’s Electrical Engineering Department Wins Praise From Peers
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