Case study of a project-based learning course in civil engineering design


This paper describes the use of project-based learning to teach design skills to civil engineering students at University College Dublin (UCD). The paper first considers the development of problem-based leaning (PBL) as a tool in higher education. The general issues to be considered in the design of the curriculum for a PBL module are reviewed. Consideration of the literature on the application of PBL in civil engineering suggests that, because of the hierarchical nature of engineering education, PBL is best applied in a hybrid form known as Project Based Learning.A detailed description is given of how hybrid PBL was implemented in the final year of a civil engineering degree programme. In the final section, the results of an evaluation process designed to gain an insight into students’perceptions of the PBL process are reviewed. The module, which was developed at UCD, provided an excellent mechanism for developing many skills, including problem-solving, innovation, group-working and presentation skills desired by graduate employers. It was clear that the students enjoyed the peer to peer teaching and increased interaction with staff and external experts, which the problem-solving nature of the module facilitated.


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