The University of California San Diego believes hands-on learning is the future of engineering education

To prepare students for a career in engineering, University of California San Diego turns to hands-on learning methods

In the last few years, universities across the nation have made hands-on learning a focus across all disciplines, especially in engineering programs. Many departments and instructors are learning that, while still important, theory-based lectures aren’t doing enough to prepare students for a career after graduation.

University of California San Diego (UCSD) continues to be a leader in engineering education year-after-year. In 2019, UCSD was named the 11th Best Engineering School in the nation. In order to remain a top university, engineering instructors are always evaluating ways to improve their curriculum. Graduate student and teaching assistant Karcher Morris was tasked with approaching his courses in a way that would engage students and give them hands-on experiences.

Explaining the importance of combining theory and practical experience, Morris says, “hands-on application is really important for our classes because when students are trying to get internships or work in the industry, they need to feel prepared for that environment.”

As an undergraduate instructor and graduate student in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Medical Device program, Morris uniquely understood the value hands-on learning brings to students at UCSD. He turned to SolidProfessor’s online, video-based learning platform to help him create a self-paced learning experience for students at home and a hands-on learning experience in the classroom.

“With SolidProfessor, I’m able to introduce a little bit of [the material] in class but get straight into the application and how we apply theory, like finite element analysis (FEA). I’m able to get into the harder subjects while leaving the functionality and the tools for students to learn at home,” explains Morris.

FIND OUT: Are your students prepared for a career in engineering? You may be surprised by the answer.

Teaching to UCSD engineering students is made easier with the help of self-paced video lessons

In Morris’s Medical Device Engineering program, he teaches students from various educational disciplines. Some students have thousands of hours of SOLIDWORKS experience, while others in the same classroom are learning it for the first time.

“One of my favorite things about SolidProfessor is that it can teach to a wide variety of students. So, to be able to teach to them at their pace is the most valuable part of SolidProfessor,” says Morris.

Each course is made up of several expert-guided video lessons. Students can watch, learn, rewind, and stop at their own pace. Morris shares, “for students to be able to pause when they need to, or stop and actually try it on their own, that’s really valuable for [them] and how they learn at different paces.”

In his Introduction to Electrical Engineering (ECE5) course, for example, Morris explains, “we try to introduce them to a lot of different concepts and a lot of different skills. With SolidProfessor, they’re able to expand on MATLAB, expand on SOLIDWORKS, and expand on all the tools in their free time at home.”

With full access to SolidProfessor’s online courses, students “end up continuing to learn on their own with SolidProfessor because it makes it so easy to learn,” adds Morris.

LEARN MORE: Discover how California Polytechnic State University is helping students learn at their own pace.

Being pressed for time calls for out-of-the-box resources and assignments that are engaging and easy-to-follow

Morris used SolidProfessor first as an undergraduate student at UCSD. When he became an instructor himself, he wanted SolidProfessor’s platform in his own curriculum. “When I got to be a TA, I knew that since it was a valuable tool for me as a student, I wanted to implement it in my own class. It was easy to get started.”

With SolidProfessor, instructors can build and assign custom courses in their dashboard from a Library of 5,000+ video lessons, exercises, and quizzes. To get started, instructors can choose the software (e.g., SOLIDWORKS) and/or the engineering design method (e.g., 3D printing) they want their students to learn. Plus, the ready-to-go courses and self-guided quizzes give instructors time back in their day to focus on hands-on applications in the classroom.

“One of the things I really like about SolidProfessor is that the interface is set up really well for classes. So when you’re trying to get a class going, you just click a few buttons and you can assign lessons really easily,” says Morris.

Keeping students engaged is important to Morris. He describes the quality of the expert-led video lessons as one of the biggest benefits. “SolidProfessor’s quality is amazing, that’s one of my favorite parts about it. The lessons are clear, concise, and effective. When students tap into it, they don’t get bored quickly.”

“At UCSD, education has been changing a lot over the last couple of years. Our Dean has had a big initiative to have a lot more hands-on classes, giving students skills they can use at companies,” explains Morris.

John Farmer
About the Author

SolidProfessor Digital Marketing Manager and keeper of Rahn, the office dog.