(566b) Successes and Challenges in Teaching Professional Skills to Undergraduates in the 21st Century | AIChE

(566b) Successes and Challenges in Teaching Professional Skills to Undergraduates in the 21st Century


Miskioglu, E. - Presenter, Bucknell University
As society evolves, so do professional norms. The modern workplace spans generations with vastly different experiences, especially with respect to communication and technology norms. While some may not have experienced computers until well into their careers, many current U.S. undergraduates are unfamiliar with a time before smartphones. With this dichotomy comes a new set of challenges for both the teacher and student as we prepare individuals in the classroom for life after graduation.

Our immense technological capabilities in the 21st century allow us to tackle more problems in rapid succession compared to what was possible 100 years ago. They also allow us to remain in constant contact, often blurring the lines between professional and personal time or space. Thus, teaching professional skills to our undergraduate students not only continues to be an important task, but also an evolving one.

In the third year of teaching Technical and Professional Communication for Engineers (TPC) at the undergraduate level, new modules and activities have been added to better reflect the professional environment of the 21st century, as well as student interests. Electronic communication etiquette, body language/nonverbal communication basics, and developing elevator pitches are among the modules that have been expanded. Time management and prioritization is an example of a module added on account of unanimous student interest.

Reactions to the course have always been largely positive, and the extra attention given to professional skills has proved valuable to the students. Mid-term and end-of-course evaluations highlight the immediate practicality of course material, and students report greater awareness of the communication that surrounds them in their professional lives.