Promoting Global Competency in Engineering Education: Designing the “Engineering Across Borders” Casebook
Keywords:Global competency, case study, social context
While global competency in engineering is a multi-dimensional skill, programs often focus on language ability, international experience, and working with international professional communities. Increasingly, engineering educators recognize a ‘third dimension’ of global competency: an understanding of how engineering projects influence and are influenced by, social, political, economic, and environmental contexts. This paper proposes the concept of a casebook that effectively builds this understanding by simulating reflective, hands on experience with project implementation in developing countries. The casebook concept features in-depth, real-world social science case studies, supplemented with informational, explanatory, and analytical materials, to improve student understanding of the different ways in which engineering practice interacts with diverse contexts. Four case studies were selected and pilot tested with undergraduate engineering students, who were asked to write article reviews in response to prompts regarding the comprehensibility and educational value of the case studies. The pilot study assessed: how case studies foment a deeper understanding of how often-assumed ‘universal principles’ of engineering interact with contextual factors; and, how case studies might be supplemented with materials that improve this understanding. Student responses indicated that the case studies contributed to their understanding and insights into the social, economic and environmental embeddedness of engineering projects. Responses also provided valuable insights into how case studies could be supplemented to improve their educational value for engineering students. The casebook concept is a potentially valuable tool for improving ‘third dimension’ of global competency, and can be particularly helpful in settings where students have limited international opportunities, and little exposure to social science approaches to engineering.