Case study: Developing job-ready graduates through contextualisation of cross-discipline learning

Case study: Developing job-ready graduates through contextualisation of cross-discipline learning

A Program Coordinator in Engineering contextualised the program's capstone subject to cater for each engineering discipline. The results: enhanced learning experience and greater acquisition of capabilities and skills.

Within the Associate Degree in Engineering Technology (AD026), Mohammad Hassan leads the third-semester course, Computing Engineering. This is a cross-discipline course for students majoring in computer and network engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, and advanced manufacturing and mechatronics engineering. 

When Mohammad entered the course, he discovered that over the past 10 years, the Computing Engineering course was not structured to contextualise the different learning outcomes these three engineering majors required to address gaps in knowledge and produce job-ready graduates. Instead, the course had been delivered in a one size fits all approach.

This was a problem as the core purpose of a cross-discipline course is to provide students with a broader understanding of a particular subject by examining the topic through the different lenses and diverse perspectives of the various disciplines within the course. 

This resulted in a lack of student engagement with and attendance in the course. 

Mohammad tasked himself with reimaging the course to contextualise the connections between Computing Engineering and the three engineering majors to enhance the learning experience and ensure students are equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills to set them up for success in work and life. 

Contextualised curriculum for engineering disciplines

The course’s new curriculum maintained the fundamentals of Computing Engineering teaching as the foundation for students to build on through a redesigned assessment with real-world relevance contextualised to their discipline. 

For this assessment, students were placed in groups with peers from their major and tasked with identifying a problem of their own choosing. Selecting real-world problems was recommended to ground students in authentic industry learning to develop relevant skills and capabilities. Each project therefore was unique to the individual group. 

Dr Mohammad Hassan headshot Mohammad Hassan, Program Coordinator Engineering, Electronic and Telecommunications

Student-led learning 

Students were given the opportunity to be active partners in their learning by co-designing the assessment topic and learning outcomes that would provide relevant capabilities, knowledge and skills for their professional futures. 

This approach gave students significant autonomy over their learning and a sense of ownership over their work. This sparked students’ self-motivation and resulted in stronger course engagement. 

‘Empowering students to collaboratively create their learning outcomes not only fosters their sense of ownership but also ignites their intrinsic motivation to excel in their studies,’ Mohammad explained. 

The topics students selected were checked off by Mohammad to ensure they met the assessment criteria and overall Course Learning Outcomes. 

'The chance to create a meaningful project within an area of interest to us, that also met the requirements for the course outcomes was a unique approach that made engaging with the topics easier.’ – Anoop Tanda, Computing Engineering student 

Students were grateful for the opportunity to put the theory they had learnt through their degree into a practical, real-world project and develop practical engineering skills in their final semester. 

‘On top of that, working in a team where everyone had different levels of experience in those different areas helped us develop skills in communication and managing projects as well.’ said Sai Thotakura, a Computing Engineering student.

The personalised assessment model also helped to support greater academic integrity within the course as assessments were individualised and unique. 

‘We found that when students were undertaking the same projects, they would share information with each other and, intentionally or unintentionally, cross the lines of academic integrity,’ Mohammad said.

‘Individualising the project outcome and, more importantly, sparking students' sense of ownership and pride over their work increased students' engagement with and integrity of the task.’   

Impactful results

Actively engaging students through the co-design of assessments not only fostered a strong connection with and ownership over their work, but encouraged creativity, innovation and a deeper commitment to their work. 

This approach also fostered critical thinking, problem-solving, and a deeper understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of computer engineering, helping students gain a holistic understanding of Computing Engineering.

‘Opportunities to work on a project like that in a holistic manner are not common in other courses and since engineering is quite a practical field in the industry, I appreciated being able to develop those skills in my degree.’ - Sai Thotakura, Computing Engineering student 

Students walked away from the new course as future engineers who are not just skilled but personally invested in the solutions they engineer and well prepared for the dynamic industry demands required of them and 

As a result, the 'Computing Engineering' course has witnessed higher course retention and attendance rates among students. 

24 October 2023


24 October 2023


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.