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Title: A framework to facilitate effective e-learning in engineering development environments : executive summary
Author: James-Gordon, Yvette
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2007
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The demands of the continually changing and developing workplace require individuals to be adaptable, multi-disciplined and with the ability to work collaboratively, often in virtual environments. Professional engineers of today must meet these demands and have appropriate business and communication skills to operate in today's competitive, fast-moving, global environment. Yet these engineers still need to remain productive and routinely keep abreast of technological advances for their day-to-day working requirements. Thus, a range of continually renewable competencies is essential, which in turn puts pressure on both industry and academia to consider alternative ways to inform and educate their engineers and students. To help address these requirements, electronic learning (e-leaming) has been researched as a possible solution to facilitate a more flexible, distributed, collaborative, self-directed, virtual learning environment for both work-based professional engineers and engineering students. This research revealed gaps in both the existing literature and working practices regarding the elearning needs of engineers and in current approaches to meet these needs. Consequently, the main objective of the research was to develop a mechanism to assist providers of e-leaming to construct effective e-leaming activities in engineering development environments. In this context, 'development' environments refer to the engineer's product-development environment and the engineering student's study environment, with the increasing responsibility for selfdevelopment in an engineering career. The research identified and investigated factors that affect learning in these engineering environments, and examined current Web-based technologies to support and enhance learning experiences. A framework was developed as the mechanism to group the different and non-comparable learning factors together into philosophy, delivery, management and technology categories. These learning factors can be connected and sequenced differently in the categories, depending on the learning requirements. Hence, the main research innovation has been the creation of this framework to structure, link and order key learning factors, which offers guidance to e-leaming providers developing e-leaming environments. A predominant action research methodology was adopted for the research, as the author was involved with engineering environments and their e-leaming practices, decisions, developments and implementations in varying degrees. The main areas investigated for the research were: 1) Exploring learning methods & preferred learning styles in the engineering environment. Important findings here identified that engineers have a strong visual learning style preference and practise experiential learning in their engineering environments. 2) Examining technologies to support and enhance learning. This provided an understanding of 'hard' computer and Web capabilities, and 'soft' non-tangible technologies. Web technologies were of particular interest to this research due to their wide reach and interactive impact on the modem working and learning environments. 3) Investigating marketing considerations from the Web-based learning (WBL) providers' viewpoint. Marketing issues, products and services of WBL providers were investigated. This compared what and how the market offered and identified the business aspects of WBL. 4) Developing an e-learning framework. The research was consolidated to create a novel framework that grouped disparate learning factors for effective e-leaming development. 5) Studying practical engineering e-learning applications. Areas of the proposed framework were validated and refined from the case study data and experiences. Critical success factors (CSF) were derived to provide a business perspective for e-leaming developments, and these complemented the framework's learning factors. The above areas have been addressed in detail and documented in separate Engineering Doctorate submissions. This Executive Summary outlines and consolidates these areas, and describes, exemplifies and verifies the various factors within the e-leaming framework and the CSFs. The rationale, applications and guidelines for the e-leaming framework are also discussed. The framework provides a toolkit for building effective e-leaming activities in engineering development environments. Thus, the research shows that e-leaming can provide the solution to facilitate a flexible, continuous learning environment for engineers.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (Great Britain) (EPSRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Eng.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: LB Theory and practice of education ; TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)