Nestled in the foothills of Bogotá, the University of the Andes (Uniandes) attracts students from Colombia who want to study engineering. Today, those graduates are better equipped than ever, thanks to a sweeping redesign of the university’s undergraduate engineering curriculum, spurred by its relationship with MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL).
Taking advantage of its affiliated membership with J-WEL over the years, Uniandes connects its senior university leaders, faculty and staff with MIT’s ideas and experience, helping to foster a systematic reimagining of Colombian university engineering education. helps. Now that it is in place, the refined curriculum is already making an impact on students and inspiring renewed effort in other departments at Uniends.
Julia Reynolds-Cuellar, J-WEL’s associate director for membership, reflects: “Uniandes are an important member of our community. Leaders of their curriculum redesign efforts have provided ongoing insight for J-WEL members and have been proactive in ensuring that lessons learned are shared widely – J-WEL’s mission an important part of.
Reimagining the curriculum for tomorrow’s engineers at Universidad de Los Andes
Redesigning the curriculum at Uniends was a three-year iterative process that embedded ideas, research, design and implementation in a practical and relevant overhaul of engineering education. The private research university was one of the first institutions to join J-WEL in 2018, shortly after the launch of the MIT-led collaboration, connecting with MIT faculty and staff experts to share their ideas and innovations for educational institutions. A platform was set for This approach has proved fruitful. Luis Alejandro Camacho Botero, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Uniends, says, “It is very important for the different schools of engineering around the world to stay connected and know what others are doing, and this allows us to do better. will gain help in.”
Uniand’s leaders join their peers in exploring wide-scale policy-level change in education through J-WEL programs, such as the “Problem-Solving Complex,” “Strategic Planning,” “Computing Everywhere,” and “Building University-led” Innovation Ecosystems. With these considerations in mind, Uniendes Faculty redesigned its courses in real time. To land on the practical changes they sought, the faculty and staff refined their ideas by participating in J-WEL’s practical workshops on curriculum design, introducing interdisciplinary programs, blending learning and integrating human skills.
The J-WEL team helped unites by focusing on teaching methods with project-based action learning, so that students can actively connect their classroom learning with the work they do in the field. Today, many Uniends engineering classes incorporate interaction with outside partners, bringing ideas and problems from the non-profit sector, industry, government agencies and local communities into the curriculum. Another key way in which Uniends faculty used MIT-led ideas was to incorporate human skills into engineering classrooms, building capabilities for communication with multiple audiences, working with multidisciplinary teams and understanding the social, environmental and ethical impact of technological solutions.
“Our new undergraduate engineering programs have many innovative components. We have project-based courses located throughout the curriculum. We are also promoting differentiated learning spaces, so that students develop teamwork, leadership, communication and creativity skills. “Students will graduate with not only technical but transversal skills, able to work with others and propose solutions to future challenges,” says Silvia Caro, vice president of academic affairs at Uniends.
As Uniends drew insights from MIT and other institutions, the university soon became a leader and model for other J-WEL members, sharing insights into their work as the redesign unfolded. Such partnerships have emerged as an important aspect of the J-WEL community. During a 2020 virtual gathering dubbed the J-WEL Connection, leaders of Uniand’s curriculum reform effort identified five key lessons for their counterparts:
- Don’t rush the process. Time and patience is needed.
- Respect the rhythms of different departments, but also communicate expected results and deliverables.
- Provide clear guidelines and understood restrictions so they can be considered during the rest of the process.
- Promote ideas and venues for discussion within each department and at the larger school level. This may include engaging with stakeholders outside the university.
- Get faculty deeply engaged and excited about the process from the outset by providing space for diverse academic thinking.
Uniand’s drive to share their insights has shaped J-WELL’s own development. In 2019, a team of J-WEL experts visited the Bogota campus for a joint workshop designed to enable next steps in their curriculum reform efforts. Uniends seized the opportunity to advance its insights by organizing an additional workshop to reach 13 universities from Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region, ensuring that Uniends’ learning was shared widely with others. Both sets of workshops were successful in inspiring ongoing efforts across the country, a testament to the value of J-WEL’s goal of driving large-scale change through innovations by its partners in the setting.
Now that it has redesigned its engineering curriculum, Uniendes is committed to keeping its teaching approach updated through constant review, adaptation and inputs from the field. Ruby Casallas Gutierrez, dean of the School of Engineering, summarizes her institution’s commitment to preparing students for life-long learning and impact: “The world is changing at a faster rate than ever before and engineers need to adapt to those changes. Will need to answer. It also means that our current students will need to recognize the importance of lifelong learning, that they will need to acquire new skills after graduation.”