Course Modules Providing Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Grand Challenges for Engineering
This card describes course modules that were
developed to introduce the global challenges facing society in the 21st
century. These modules are linked below in the first folder and they are stored on a Canvas site that anyone can access.
The modules are currently used in a 3-credit 7.5-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered through Arizona State University's (ASU) Earned Admission (EA) program, a program that offers both college credits at scale and a pathway for students to earn admissions into ASU. The on-ground version of this course is currently offered over a 15 week semester to students in the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) at ASU and most of these scholars take this course during their first year and it counts toward the multidisciplinary competency of the program.
While these modules are interrelated, they have been packaged to also stand alone to allow for easy adoption, adaptation, and implementation by faculty members in their own courses and/or programs, in both face-to-face settings and in an online environment. Each module as well as the specific material within it can be used independently from the others.
Course Modules Introduction
These modules are centered on the NAE's Grand Challenges for Engineering and they help students develop an
interdisciplinary systems perspective on global challenges related to the Grand
Challenges themes of sustainability, health, security, and joy of living. One of
the modules provides an overview of the global challenges and four subsequent
modules each focuses on one of these four theme areas. To show variations of the
challenges and solutions, within each theme area, different scales are
discussed, including developing communities, developed communities, and global
scale; or personal level, national level, and global scale.
These modules aim to increase students'
awareness of the social complexities involved in meeting the needs of local and
global challenges through engineering and technology. Many different types of
activities were designed based on best practices to engage students and incorporated in these modules to provide students
with opportunities to actively consider and evaluate the reciprocal relationship
between engineering solutions or technologies and aspects of society including
economics, politics, ethics, environment, culture, and human behavior. Examples
of these activities include mind mapping activities, simulation-based role play,
design activity, pros and cons lists, game, case studies, etc. Besides
activities and discussions, different types of video material are also included
in these modules. These video material consists of instructor-led video
lectures, application videos with voiceover animations, video clips and/or
static images, expert talks that feature research faculty members and industry
professionals from across the nation discussing challenges related to their
fields and their current research and industry-related work to address these
challenges, and video montages of interviews conducted with various experts and
NAE GCSP alumni on various topics.
Besides modules that allow students to broadly
explore the global challenges in different theme areas, one of the remaining
modules focuses on a research assignment that provides students with the
opportunity to learn about examples of current research efforts related to one
of the theme areas that they are most passionate about. Students are also
introduced to a few frameworks which they can apply to analyze the potential
societal impact of these research efforts from multiple perspectives.
In addition to developing an interdisciplinary
systems perspective about the challenges and their solutions from these
aforementioned modules, students also start to develop an entrepreneurial
mindset needed to tackle these challenges. One of the modules describes
an open ended Entrepreneurially-Minded Learning (EML) based project that invites
students to find their passion, exercise their entrepreneurial mindset, and
develop a future solution to fulfill a need or opportunity related to the NAE’s
vision for Engineering in the 21st century: Continuation of life on the
planet, making our world more sustainable, secure, healthy, and joyful. In this project, students identify an
opportunity to create added value for society, develop a futuristic solution,
and research current technologies and trends to show that their solution will
be technically feasible in the future. Students also consider various
nontechnical aspects such as social, cultural, global, legal, economic, and
political factors when developing their solution. When considering these
societal factors, they identify the challenges they may face in developing and implementing
a solution that will be technically feasible and economically viable while also
creating value for society. They are also asked to imagine the impact their
solutions would have on society if they were to be developed. This project can be implemented in both an online environment and a face-to-face setting. It can be done by students individually or as a group (suggested group size: 3-4 students). Various assignments are included to help students work through the design and development process and their work is showcased in a project poster.
To help students make sense of their learning using
the dynamic, active learning, discussion-based, guided self-exploratory material,
digital portfolios are introduced in one of the modules, and they provide
students with opportunities to reflect on their learning, connect their
knowledge and experiences, infuse that knowledge and experience with meaning,
and intertwine it with their own personal identities, interests, and values.
Last but not least, there is one module that
focuses on the competencies, skills, and/or mindset that is needed to tackle
the challenges. It introduces the NAE GCSP competencies and shows examples of
ways to achieve each of them. There are also discussions and assignments that
ask students to reflect on their interests and goals, and determine the next
steps they will take toward achieving them. In video montages, experts and GCSP alumni also share their perspectives about competencies, skills, and/or mindset that they feel are important and offer suggestions for students that are working to achieve these competencies to realize the goals for engineering in the 21st century.
List of Course Modules
The complete list of modules and sub-modules can
be found below.
1. Module - Goals for engineering in the 21st century
in an interdisciplinary, global context
Vision for engineering and specific goals
Developing solutions to interdisciplinary societal
Customer discovery, needs analysis, and
2. Module - Developing solutions to make our lives more
Introduction to sustainability
Sustainability challenges and solutions in
Sustainability challenges and solutions in
Global sustainability challenges
3. Module - Developing solutions to make our lives healthier
Introduction to health
Global differences in health
Health challenges and solutions in developed
Health challenges and solutions in developing
4. Module - Developing solutions to make our lives more
o Introduction to security
Personal security challenges and solutions
National security challenges and solutions
Global security challenges and solutions
5. Module - Developing solutions to make our lives more joyful
Introduction to joy of living
Education-related challenges and solutions
Challenges and solutions in joy of living
Challenges and solutions related to engineering
the tools of scientific discovery and exploration
6. Module - Impact of engineering solutions
Societal impact of technology frameworks
7. Module - How can you make an impact?
Realizing the goals for engineering in the 21st
8. Module - Future solutions project
Future solutions project overview
Assignment: needs analysis part 1
Assignment: needs analysis part 2
Assignment: developing a solution
Assignment: identifying technology development
Assignment: project poster
9. Module - Research assignment
10. Module - Professional portfolio
Digital portfolio reflections
11. Module - Additional resources
How the Course Modules are Used in the 7.5-week MOOC
The first 7 modules listed above are each covered in a week when they are used in the MOOC that was previously mentioned. Within the MOOC, the Future Solutions project is conducted over the entire duration of the 7.5 week course. It is introduced at the end of week 1 and students work on one project assignment during each of the subsequent weeks. The project poster is submitted at the end of the course. The research assignment listed in the 9th module is introduced at the beginning of week 6 (Module - Impact of engineering solutions) and is submitted at the end of the same week. The digital portfolio mentioned in the Module - Professional portfolio is introduced and set up by students before the start of week 1. They then complete a reflection at the end of each of the theme modules (Modules 2-5) and complete a final reflection and showcase their accomplishments at the end of the course.
Link to EM
EM is introduced and its importance in tackling the challenges presented is addressed in one of the modules and it is also instilled throughout all other modules. More specifically, these course modules cover the three C's in the following ways.
Students are encouraged to view the challenges presented as opportunities. There are discussions about stakeholders and target customers, the importance of customer discovery, how to solicit voice of the customers in order to identify specific customer needs, how to organize customer needs and extrapolate customer needs in larger contexts for opportunity identification. These concepts and techniques are practiced in the Future Solutions project.
Besides the project, many of the activities and discussions also provide students with opportunities to explore the role the customers play in the development of technologies to address the challenges. One such example is the case study about PlayPumps, which are merry-go-round type devices that pump water as children play on them. The solution was implemented in South African countries without proper sociocultural considerations of the communities and this has led to the failure of the solution. Another example is the You Decide! activity where students are asked to rank nanotechnologies based the importance and usefulness to them and again to their assigned characters. This activity helps students better understand how people's value shapes the development and implementation of technologies.
Some of these activities also help students explore a contrarian view of accepted solutions, by critically considering the many non-technical challenges that these solutions might face during their development and implementation and possible negative impact they could have on society from multiple perspectives. Examples of these challenges include economic barriers, public opinion, ethical concerns, to name a few. And social relationships, economics, politics, environment, are among some of the examples of ways these technologies might impact society negatively
Throughout the modules, an interdisciplinary systems approach is emphasized as students explore the challenges and consider potential technological solutions that address them. Students are encouraged to view technologies as part of larger systems, and consider both technical elements and non-technical elements that interact with these technologies. Students are encouraged to consider and make connections between technologies and aspects of society including people and different organizations, economics, politics, ethics, environment, culture, and human behavior, and integrate information from these multiple perspectives as they develop technologies. Students practice this in their Future Solutions projects as well as many activities and discussions.
Some example activities that help students make connections include the Climate Policy activity, the Energy Economics activity, the National Security Role Play activity, and the Advanced Technology Mind Map activity, etc.. For example, in the Climate Policy activity, students make connections between technologies and public policy to help them understand the role public policy plays in the diffusion of innovations. The Energy Economics game provides students with an opportunity to make connections between various factors including tariffs,
tax credit, political conflicts, weather events, infrastructure degradation,
technology advancements, and the success of various technologies in the energy market. In the National Security Role Play activity, students
play the role of a governor who makes a series of decisions about the actions
they would take in response to a security threat affecting multiple states. As
students make decisions, they factor in interactions and connections between engineers,
businesses, local, state, and national government, humanitarian aid
organizations, media, citizens, and others that are necessary not only to
detect and mitigate the current threat situation but also to prevent possible
future threats. The Advanced Technology Mind Map activity asks students to critically consider the implication of the development and implementation of an advanced technology and use a mind map to show its connection and interaction with various aspects of society.
Besides making connections between technology and various aspects of society, students also make connections between the themes introduced in the modules, including sustainability, health, security, and joy of living, recognizing that many of the challenges are related to more than one theme area and thus efforts from multiple disciplines must be integrated in addressing them.
These course modules emphasize the importance of considering the impact of technologies on society from multiple perspectives, including sociocultural, economic, environmental, global, political, etc., and introduces multiple frameworks that help students analyze/predict the societal impact of technologies. Students consider and articulate the value proposition of their Future Solutions project and identify multiple ways their future technology would create value for their stakeholders, target customers, and society. In the Research Assignment, students also analyze the potential societal impact of examples of current research efforts that address challenges within a theme area they are most passionate about from multiple perspectives.
The paper that discusses the design and development of the course modules and insights gained from the initial offering of the MOOC was presented in the F341A Multidisciplinary Learning Experiences Session at the 2020 ASEE Annual Conference. The paper can be found in the folders section of this card.
What is Included in this Card
Included in the folders below is the link to the Course Modules description page (enrollment instructions are found on this page) and the ASEE paper that describes the design, development, and initial offering of the MOOC in which these course modules are currently used at ASU.
All of the course modules are currently housed within a site on the Canvas Learning Management System. The way these materials can be adopted and used is described below for each type of material included.
The videos included in these modules can be incorporated into any learning management system. The link and embed code can be obtained for each video by right clicking the video. Where applicable, the PowerPoint slides (in .pptx format) have also been included, to help with in-person delivery of the video content. Handouts (in .pdf format) that include the slides as well as image attributions are also included for these videos.
Activity and Discussion
For the majority of the activities, MS Word documents (.docx) are provided that include descriptions of the activities, instructions, and assessment rubrics. For activities where video instructions and/or interactives (e.g., drag-and-drop exercise, game, etc.) are included, their descriptions, activities, and instructions can be found on the activity pages. The interactives can be downloaded, or embedded into other platforms by copying the embed codes. Most of the activities were designed and developed for an online environment, however, they can be adapted for face-to-face classroom settings. For some of these activities, we have suggested tools for online implementations, and described how it can be done for an in-person setting or included alternative versions for implementation in a face-to-face classroom setting. The majority of the activities each has an associated discussion where students have the opportunity to share their work from the activity and insights gained from it. If these activities are implemented in a face-to-face classroom setting, their associated discussions can be directly integrated into the activities as in class discussions right after students have completed the activities. Each activity and its associated discussion can be conducted within one class period.
Three types of assignments are included in these course modules: assignments for the Future Solutions project, assignments for digital portfolios, and a research assignment. For all of these assignments, MS Word (in .docx) files have been posted that include assignment instructions and assessment rubrics. When applicable, different versions of the same assignment are shared to to help with implementation in different environments.