September 19, 2019

NSF supports Purdue team developing online manufacturing education

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s College of Engineering, along with colleagues in the Polytechnic Institute and the College of Education, is developing new online courses intended to contribute to the national need for well-educated engineers and technologists.

The project is one of only five nationwide announced Thursday (Sept. 19) by the National Science Foundation as part of the Production Engineering Education and Research (PEER) program.

Training in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas has become vital for a wider range of employees as industries in Indiana and across the U.S. become more dependent on rapidly changing technology.

Audeen Fentiman, Purdue’s Crowley Family Professor in the School of Engineering Education, said the work will identify key concepts students must master in the emerging technical area of model-based systems engineering and ways of teaching the concepts effectively.

“In addition,” she said, “we will develop a process for assessing the effectiveness of online technical instruction.”

The university will receive $2 million in funding for the project from the NSF’s PEER program. The award is part a $10 million gift The Boeing Co. made to the program in 2018.

The project will support the design, deployment, and evaluation of online courses for students at two-year colleges, undergraduates at four-year universities and working professionals. The project will be conducted in collaboration with Ivy Tech Community College and several industry partners to ensure that the courses are well aligned with both students’ degree programs and industry needs. 

Fentiman said because this project will enable students to engage in the course materials remotely, it can be accessible to thousands of students and professionals across the country, resulting in a more highly skilled workforce and making U.S. manufacturing more competitive.

The instructional courses to be developed will incorporate cutting-edge research in technical education and provide students with virtual experience in real-life settings or situations.

Course materials will be divided into modules, allowing students and professionals to personalize their learning by taking the modules most important to them. The modular approach will allow students to certify their competence in areas of their own choosing. 

Online learning platforms such as the one to be developed by the Purdue team, including instructional designers affiliated with Purdue Online Learning, are increasingly prevalent educational tools that have received comparatively little study. In addition to developing the online courses, PEER awardees will study their effectiveness, finding out what connects best with learners at various levels of skills in a number of different environments. 

Writer: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu

Source: Audeen Fentiman, 765-494-7781, fentiman@purdue.edu

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