March 29, 2012

 The 2012 TechPawLooza! event, held in the LSU Union, boasted more than 851 attendees and 50 exhibits. The theme for this year’s event, Educate! Connect! Discover!, was embodied by a project headed by Paige Davis, instructor, Department of Construction Management and Industrial Engineering, LSU and director of the Encounter Engineering in Europe summer program (E3), and David “Boz” Bowles, communication instructor for Communication across the Curriculum (CxC). Davis and Bowles oversaw the 5-week study-abroad program, in which a group of 13 students studied English, German and/or manufacturing and technology in Germany.

A pilot ENGL 2000 classroom environment carried out both in the field with factory excursions and online via Moodle, SkypeTM and GotoMeetingTM made the 2011 E3 program one-of-a-kind. Bowles taught the class from the Engineering Communication Studio, in Patrick F. Taylor Hall, while Davis led students on excursions in Germany.

 “My experience was like nothing else,” said James Parker, 2011 E3 participant, civil engineering junior and president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student organization at LSU. “It was great to be part of a class that has never been attempted before. At first, it was hard to realize that we were in class when we were Skyping with Boz back in Baton Rouge.”

Bowles worked with Barbara Heifferon, director of the University Writing Program, to make sure that the pilot course was sufficiently rigorous as an ENGL 2000 course.

“We used web-conferencing software for the contact hours with me as the instructor of record, but the students also spent a lot of time touring sites with E3 Director Paige Davis and her IE class,” Bowles said. “I thought the students actually got more out of the class than they would have in a traditional ENGL 2000 class. Because they were so wrapped up in the whole E3 experience, they kept a focus that might be difficult to maintain on campus. I think they came away with a better understanding of the role of technology in society, its history and its limitations.”

Parker enjoyed a view of the Alps while sitting in his hotel Skyping into a classroom with Bowles back on the LSU campus. He had the opportunity to write his final English 2000 paper on the technical aspects of German culture and experiences he had touring German industrial engineering sites.

“College is a time to experience the world and study abroad programs are a great way for someone to experience the world,” Parker said. “I was able to travel six different countries because of this program. Students that are able to participate in a program like this have endless opportunities.”

“I thought the pilot ENGL 2000 class taught in Germany was hugely successful,” Davis said. “Using technology to take a distance learning course in a foreign country and writing about topics that they were able to research firsthand made the class exciting and relevant.” 

Davis often observed the class while students Skyped with Boz and always found the students working diligently.

“They were completely engaged even though they were thousands of miles away from their instructor,” Davis said.

The LSU College of Engineering is dedicated to finding ways for more students to take advantage of this opportunity. 

“The College of Engineering wants the LSU engineer to have a global awareness,” Davis said. “For some students, that will include a study-abroad experience. Because study-abroad creates a unique learning environment, I think that we will see more opportunities to develop distinctive classes to meet those needs. The pilot section of English 2000 is a direct result of that effort.  E3, in collaboration with the Engineering Communication Studio, can help foster these initiatives.”

As E3 continues to grow, Bowles hopes to see the Engineering Communication Studio expand the use of web-based learning. 

“I see more use of web-conferencing software each semester,” Bowles said. “Students use GoToMeeting and Skype to speak with sponsors who are off campus.  Presentations in capstone courses are being broadcast to a variety of panelists who are off campus, by means of Adobe Connect.  As the software options improve, the possibilities become more numerous. Perhaps because engineering students and faculty are generally less intimidated by technology, and because technical literacy is so important to engineers of every sort, I see the CoE as an obvious incubator for new ways to use technology in the classroom.”

New ways of communication are even more important in light of today’s globalized society. “These days, an engineer can expect to work on global projects,” Bowles said. “Something might be designed in one country, approved by a group in a second country, prototyped by another group in a third country and finally manufactured in a fourth country.”

 “I believe that as we continue in the CoE to take our students global, we are going to have to be creative with the teaching and delivering of course material,” Davis said. “Hopefully, the success of the English 2000 class will help pave the way for other classes to be created as distance learning, building on the experiences gained.”

To read this year’s E3 blog, click here.

For more info about the Engineering Communications Studio, click here.


Article written by Paige Brown, communications graduate student worker. For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, or (225) 578-0092.

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