Architecture Scribble Book now at booksellers

Introducing the “Architecture Scribble Book” — a brand new book from Usborne Publishers.

As with the “Engineering Scribble Book” published in 2018, I served as consultant on the content and presentation for this book project. These are outreach projects I completed during my Marie Curie fellowship at University College London.

The front cover of “Architecture Scribble Book”

The “Architecture Scribble Book” is an activity book for kids, chock full of principles we teach architecture students at university level, presented in a way that is fun and easy-to-understand.

Pages from “Architecture Scribble Book”

Much like the “Engineering Scribble Book”, this “Architecture Scribble Book” aims to give kids a taste of this STEM-oriented career. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some people like to add an A to STEM, making it STEAM, to make sure the art and architecture side of things doesn’t get overlooked. These books show that architecture and engineering are both highly creative fields!

Covers of both “Scribble Architecture” and “Scribble Engineering”

With this architecture activity book, kids get to learn about design and technology as they build skills and understanding, and learn about the values architecture need to hold to do their jobs well.

Here’s a video by Usborne Publishers on the architecture book:

Lessons include spatial planning, daylighting, geometry, structural properties, material reuse, universal design, effective use of materials, and much more.

Kids also learn basic conventions of representation, such as those used in floor plans, elevations, and perspective drawings.

Pages from “Scribble Engineering”

These concepts are similar in some ways to those covered in the “Engineering Scribble Book”, but the content is unique. Together the make a very nice set.

All said, the “Architecture Scribble Book” is a lovely addition to the Usborne series, and could make a great gift for the children on your Christmas gift list.

Here’s a video by the publisher on the engineering book:

11,573 MSCA-IF Proposals Submitted in 2020

The deadline passed last week for submitting applications for Marie Curie Individual Fellowships. I received many supportive messages, most on Facebook, with thanks for sharing online one of my past proposals and the evaluators’ comments. I was so happy to help others through the challenging process of creating and refining their proposals.

The posts on this topic were accessed by a huge number of people–some 4,363 visitors to my blog site–making this perhaps the most widely read document I’ve ever written.

I posted the following content from my unsuccessful 2015 proposal, which provided the best lessons on how to address the evaluation criteria:

• Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.11.21.31.4
• Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.12.2
• Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
• Ethics Section
• Final Report from 2016 submission

Almost all people visiting Ireland By Chance in August and September 2020 have been those preparing proposals. In August, there were 3,687 visitors to the site, and in September there have been another 676 visitors. The number of views for since the start of August totals 10,661!

I’m pleased to have reached people in most parts of the world, as illustrated in the August maps provided by WordPress (see below).

I’m happy to report that people in Ireland used the site most, and many from the UK as well, so the time and effort contributed by people from Ireland and the UK, helping me learn these skills and create this proposal, had benefits to those countries.

The total number of applications received this year was up 17%. In all, 11,573 MSCA-IF proposals were submitted to the European Commission. Writing just one is a massive undertaking, requiring 5-6 weeks of focused work.

Unfortunately, the most recent EU budget allocations provide 25% less money to this particular fellowship program. You can read more about the cuts in this article:

https://sciencebusiness.net/framework-programmes/news/member-states-agree-cuts-2021-rd-budget

Congratulations on the huge accomplishment of submitting to all those who met the deadline–and the best of luck in garnering funding to support your important work.

Project Management as an MSCA Research Fellow

As part of my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship (MSCA IF), which ran 2018-2020, I learned new skills in project management. Two of my six work packages (WPs) focused on project management: WP3 was for developing a special focus issue (which turned into producing two issues of in the journal IEEE Transactions on Education), and WP6 was for managing the MSCA grant itself.

In this blog post, I describe activities in these two work packages. I also identify what impact I wanted to have with the MSCA grant and share photos with colleagues.

Incidentally, the photo above was taken with Prof. Emanuela Tilley (of University College London, UCL) and Dr. Folashade Akinmolayan (of Queen Mary University London). Emanuela is a highly organized and productive manager and she serves as the Director of UCL’s award-winning Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP). She’s been a fabulous role model for me in learning these types of skills.

Below are two more colleagues from UCL, who worked with Emanuela and me in the Engineering Faculty Office.

The other three pictures are taken with colleagues from the States, showing how I helped transfer knowledge and learning across the Atlantic and back as a result of this grant.

WP3, Special-Focus Journal Issues

The intention of WP3 was for me to learn publication skills related the engineering education research (EER). In the MSCA application, I promised to deliver a publication-ready document to a publishing house by month 24 of the two-year grant. Ultimately, I found I was able to spearhead development of two different special focus journal issues. I exceed my own expectations by working proactively. In fact, both of these journal issues were already published by month 24, and are currently informing the EER community.

The special focus issues I spearheaded are cited as follows:

CHANCE, S., Williams, B., Goldfinch, T., Adams, R. S., & Fleming, L. N. (Eds.). (August 2019). Special Issue on Using Enquiry- and Design-Based Learning to Spur Epistemological and Identity Development of Engineering Students. IEEE Transactions on Education, (62)3. DOI 10.1109/TE.2019.2923043.

CHANCE, S., Bottomly, L., Panetta, K., & Williams, B. (Eds.). (November 2018). Special-focus issue on gender in engineering in the IEEE Transactions on Education, (61)4.

In the UCL Engineering Faculty Office at UCL, with EER researcher Dr. Inês Direito and the faculty’s Communications Manager Emma Whitney.

At this point, I am leading the development of a third special focus issue–this last one is for the Australiasian Journal of Engineering Education–and this project is extending my reach farther across the globe.

The third special focus issue, now under development is:

CHANCE, S., Strobel, J., Mazzurco, A., Hattingh, T., & Villas-Boas, V. (Eds.). (forthcoming May 2021). Special Issue on Ethics in Engineering Education and Practice. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education (AJEE).

An intention for this new issue is for the two lead editors (Chance and Strobel) to help mentor the three other guest editors through the process to enable them to lead development of future special focus issues in EER. I’m thus delighted to report that Teresa Hattingh was recently appointed as Associate Editor of a new EER journal out of India.

Enjoying ice cream at Covent Garden in London with my amazing PhD advisor, Dr. Pamela Eddy (from William and Mary in Virginia) and her husband, Dr. David Pape, who visited during my Marie Curie.

WP6, Project Management

The intention of WP6 was to keep the grant well managed from financial, quality assurance, and reporting standpoints. The main requirement was to provide essential information to the European Commission regarding the progress of the grant.

During the MSCA IF, I followed University College London data management guidelines. My research projects were identified as “low risk” to human participants and followed the established guidelines.

Under this WP, I had promised the following deliverables: a Career Development Plan (CDP), a mid-project report, and a final report. The CDP was developed and uploaded to the Participant Portal in the required timeframe. I also developed a mid-project report but, as there was no portal available for uploading it on the EU reporting platform, I posted the mid-term report to my blog and sent a link to my program officer.

Three-quarters of the way through my MSCA-IF period, I participated in a monitoring session in Brussels. It was held for Marie Curie Fellows doing projects in education and learning sciences. The set up was new, and this session was one of the first of its kind. Feedback I received there for my MSCA work was positive; no alterations to my projects were requested.

A PDF of the overall final report is available on my website for anyone to see and it has now been downloaded 234 times since I made it available. The blog page where it is posted has been viewed 486.

I believe posting the PDF is making a contribution in that a lot of MSCA fellows are curious to see what a report looks since there isn’t much information available online, meaning that most people can’t work on their reports until their grant actually finishes.

Getting together with my Master’s Thesis advisor (from Virginia Tech) and his wife, Ron and Cheryl Daniel, when they lived in London.

Impact envisioned

From the outset, I wanted my MSCA work to enhanced public perception of engineering as a fun and creative field. I also set out to help:

  • increase the focus given by engineering educators to the developmental patterns of engineering students;
  • improve student retention as a result of increased support;
  • enhance diversity, as techniques to support minority students are increasingly utilized;
  • improve overall teaching in engineering education as a result increasingly credible and useful research;
  • provide increased focus on ethics and sustainability in engineering education; and
  • produce tools and models to help engineering educators foster creativity and engineering firms contribute to realizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
During this MSCA Fellowship, I got to attend my first two annual conferences of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). At both, I caught up with instructors from Hampton Roads in Virginia (where I used to live). They coach student teams that compete at the ASEE conference annually. This colleague, Chris Helton, is from the Apprentice School at the Newport News Shipyard.

My plans for dissemination and exploitation of results was fully realized (and, in fact, exceeded). I believe that all critical objectives proposed in my MSCA application have been fully achieved, and the list of deliverables exceeds the original promises. Many additional manuscripts that are currently under development using data collected during this fellowship will continue to achieve impact in coming years.     

An Irish Welcome-Home!

Welcome to the homepage of Ireland by Chance, a blog sharing the adventures of an Expat architect/urbanist/teacher/engineering education researcher who moved from the United States in 2012 to make Ireland her home.

You can view archives (2012-present) by clicking the folder icon to learn what it’s like to be Fulbright and Marie Curie Research Fellow, to teach at university in Ireland, and to explore the cities and landscapes of Ireland, the UK, and Europe.

I’ve also posted an example grant proposal for Marie Curie (individual fellowships):
Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

Doing social science as an MSCA Research Fellow

A Marie Curie Research Fellowship is about developing new research skills by doing research projects under the supervision of highly skilled experts. People who are interested in doing a fellowship like this might want to see what one looks like in reality, particularly a fellowship in the realm of social sciences and/or educational sciences (the SOC panel for European projects). This post describes research I generated myself (working with colleagues during my recent 2-year MSCA Individual Fellowship at UCL) and shares some photos taken with other researchers during my fellowship.

My time was distributed across six work packages (WPs). Today, I described work related to WP1, Qualitative Research and WP2, Multiple Methods.

These two work packages developed my skill with various social science methodologies. I am a pragmatist in that I try to implement whatever methodology is best suited to answer my specific question. And I have so many questions!

The experts I worked with at University College London (UCL) were Professor Nick Tyler, Professor John Mitchell, and the recently promoted Dr. Inês Direto. They were amazing!

At the time I joined, UCL was ranked seventh in the world for research by QS! It was a fantastic place to develop new skills. The fellowship ended December 31, 2019, but I am pleased to say I’m still working with UCL even now, as I was appointed Visiting Professor there for a five year term in addition to having the two-year fellowship. I collaborate with Inês and John nearly every single day.

London was calling my name! I jumped at the “chance” to work at one of the world’s leading research institutions even though I’d nearly just started a new Lecturing post at TU Dublin. Thankfully, my supervisors in Dublin saw value in the exchange and encouraged me to go.

My MSCA-IF research was looking at how design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture. To put it more generally, I investigate how to teach engineering as effectively as possible.

You can read an overview of the fellowship here and download my final report, with similar information, here.

WP1, Qualitative Research

The intention of WP1 was to use qualitative research methods to study how engineering and architecture students learn and how they conceptualize design creation and knowledge generation. The following deliverables were listed in the fellowship application: submission of one conference paper and one journal manuscript. The list of items produced is provided below and exceeds the stated expectations. Under WP1, I delivered four conference publications and one journal publication during the fellowship period. I have an additional three conference publications and two journal manuscripts underway.

The first journal paper published under WP1 was an editorial overview of epistemological development and identity development among students published in IEEE Transactions on Education. The academic citation for it is:

CHANCE, S., Williams, B., Goldfinch, T., Adams, R. S., & Fleming, L. N. (Eds.). (August 2019). Guest Editorial Statement for the Special Issue on Using Enquiry- and Design-Based Learning to Spur Epistemological and Identity Development of Engineering Students. IEEE Transactions on Education, (62)3, 157-164. DOI 10.1109/TE.2019.2923043. (Download here).

The next set of manuscripts investigated the development of civil engineers. I conducted nine interviews with civil engineers practicing in London to explore how they think about ethics and also how they integrate global responsibility (e.g., environmental and social sustainability) into their work. This yielded two conference papers:

CHANCE, S. M., Direito, I., Lawlor, R., Cresswell-Maynard, K., Pritchard, J., Tyler, N., & Mitchell, J. (2019, July). Background and design of a qualitative study on globally responsible decision-making in civil engineering. In Proceedings of the 8th Research in Engineering Education Symposium, REES 2019-Making Connections (Vol. 8, pp. 211-220). REEN (Research in Engineering Education Network) and SASEE (South African Society for Engineering Education). (Download here or here.)

CHANCE, S. M., Direito, I., & Mitchell, J. (forthcoming). To what degree do graduate civil engineers working in London enact Global Responsibility and support UN Sustainable Development Goals? Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD 2020) conference in Cork, Ireland.

The same UK-based engineering study will yield a number of journal articles. The conference paper on Sustainable Development Goals, listed above, was produced for the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD 2020) conference and is being expanded into a journal article. Moreover, the two following manuscripts have been drafted and are currently being reviewed and refined:

CHANCE, S. M., Mitchell, J., Direito, I., & Creswell-Maynard, K. (accepted for development). Limited by scope and client request: Challenges faced by early-career civil engineers enacting global responsibility in the UK workplace. European Journal of Engineering Education Special Issue: Early Career Engineers and the Development of Engineering Expertise.

CHANCE, S. M., Lawlor, R., Direito, I., Creswell-Maynard, K., & Mitchell, J. (under development). Ethical empowerment: A proposal for following past success to support sustainable behavior among civil engineers. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education. Special Issue: Ethics in Engineering Education and Practice.

Closely related to this UK engineering study is work I have done with the PhD student I have been supervising. The student’s doctoral thesis investigates how creativity is manifest in engineering design and production. The two following papers have been published and presented at conferences—they helped apply the student’s research on engineering organizations to higher education organizations—and many more journal papers are under development by the same team, to be submitted to various journals.

Empson, T., CHANCE, S. M., & Patel, S. (2019). A critical analysis of the contextual pressures sustainable development presents HE researchers and evaluators. Society for Research on Higher Education (SRHE) 2019 conference in Cardiff, UK.

Empson, T., CHANCE, S. M., & Patel, S. (2019, September). A critical analysis of ‘creativity’ in sustainable production and design. In 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education. Glasgow, UK. (Download here or here).

All the projects listed above were helping build my skills to conduct the headline project of this Work Package. For this headline project, I conducted in-depth interviews with 26 architecture and civil engineering students in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the USA. This yielded a paper for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), one of the world’s most prominent conferences on engineering education:

CHANCE, S., Mimirinis, M., Direito, I., Mitchell, J., & Tilley, E. (2019, June). How architecture and engineering students conceptualize design creation: Report of a pilot study. In American Society for Engineering Education (Vol. 126). American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Tampa, Florida. (Download here or here).

Two manuscripts are now under development using the data collected. These will make a major contribution to the knowledge base related to design education:

CHANCE, S. M., Miminiris, M., & Direito, I. (under development). How architecture and engineering students conceptualize design creation. Targeting the Journal of Engineering Education or similar.

CHANCE, S. M., Miminiris, M., & Direito, I. (under development). How architecture and engineering students conceptualize the generation of new knowledge. Targeting Design Studies or similar.

By attending a May 2018 workshop at the Society for Research on Higher Education (SRHE), I discovered phenomenography would be the optimal methodology for studying the issue defined in my MSCA grant application. As a result, UCL brought in the teacher of the SRHE workshop, Dr. Mike Miminiris, and employed him as a consultant to help me and my colleagues learn this highly structured research methodology. Dr. Miminiris provided a seminar for UCL staff and has guided me, and other researchers from UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education, through the phenomenographical analysis process.

I made some minor deviations from the work plan originally proposed in my MSCA application; however, these alterations did not alter the intent of the work. For instance, I had proposed to work across sectors with the UK’s Creative Industries Foundation, but ultimately worked instead with UNESCO, Engineers without Borders UK (EWBUK) and the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. I originally envisioned collecting data from participants in Ireland, Portugal, Poland and the United Kingdom, but ultimately my data were collected in Ireland, Portugal, the United States and the United Kingdom. I also honed the specific research questions, developing upon the originally envisioned themes of each work package, by making the sub-questions more precise within the major theme while maintaining the intent to investigate:

  • Gender (supporting diversity)
  • Epistemic cognition
  • Outcomes of design-based learning pedagogies

WP2, Multiple Methods in Research

I also shifted the intention of WP2 slightly after getting the Fellowship underway. I focused my efforts on “multiple methodologies” in engineering education research rather than solely “mixed methods” as originally proposed. This shift in definition allowed me to learn a wider range of research techniques. For instance, changes to WP2 allowed study of the psychological construct of grit.

Learning to work collaboratively as part of a highly effective research team was a major outcome of this fellowship. Another shift in WP2 was that, while I originally anticipated developing and conducting my own survey to extend WP1, I was able to learn more by working with psychologist Dr. Inês Direito to design and implement a quantitative survey for use at UCL. That study was presented/published via the Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES) in Cape Town in July 2019.

Many researchers use a single methodology, or a highly focused set of similar methodologies, to answer their questions. Thus, they tend to ask questions that can be answered with the methodologies they know. As this particular MSCA Fellow aims to conduct research projects that address a wide array of research questions, I need to develop mastery of many different methods. This way, I can use the most appropriate research method for answering each type of question when it arises. Therefore, the intention of WP2 was to build my skills in new methodologies, and also to help build the skills of the larger engineering education research (EER) community by infusing knowledge about these methodologies.

In the MSCA grant application, the following deliverables were promised under WP2: submission of one conference paper and one journal manuscript. Under WP2, however, I have already delivered five conference presentations, three published journal articles, four conference presentations, and one encyclopedia entry. In addition, I have two conference manuscripts underway. Details are provided below.

The first major project under WP2 had two focus points: (1) comparing two different methodologies and applying these methodologies to (2) study engineering teachers’ experiences implementing design- and problem-based learning. A major publication resulted:

CHANCE, S. M., Duffy, G., & Bowe, B. (2019). Comparing grounded theory and phenomenology as methods to understand lived experience of engineering educators implementing Problem-Based Learning. European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1607826. (Download here or here).

The content was also delivered at a leading conference:

CHANCE, S. M. & Duffy, G. (2018). A model for spurring organizational change based on faculty experiences working together to implement Problem-Based Learning. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Download here, here, or here).

The above publications are part of a larger effort by this Fellow to support diverse students. As a result of this MSCA, I have emerged as a highly visible member and leader of the EER community globally. As part of this community, I am trying to develop better teaching practices (androgies, or pedagogies for adults). To support this effort, I co-authored an overview on socio-cultural diversity in engineering education that was published in a leading journal:

CHANCE, S., Bottomly, L., Panetta, K., & Williams, B. (Eds.). (November 2018). Guest Editorial Statement for the Special Issue on Increasing the Socio-Cultural Diversity of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Related Fields. IEEE Transactions on Education, (61)4, 261-264. DOI 10.1109/TE.2018.2871656. (Download here).

Work conducted via WP2 also helped inform an encyclopedia entry I authored:

CHANCE, S. M. (2020). Problem-Based Learning: Use in Engineering Disciplines. In Amey, M. J. & David, M. E. (Eds.). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Higher Education, 5v. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Under WP2, I also interviewed 20 women studying engineering in Ireland. This added to the set of interviews I had previously conducted, and it is allowing me to produce longitudinal studies on women’s experiences learning engineering and working in engineering teams. Data analyzed to date focus on the experiences of: (a) a single mother studying engineering and overcoming challenges and (b) Middle Eastern women studying engineering in Ireland. In the future, journal articles will be prepared, related to both topics. Already-published work on this project includes one conference publication on the single mother:

Williams, B., CHANCE, S. M., & Direito, I. (2019). No one really minded a female barmaid, but I don’t know they’d “not mind” a female engineer: One student’s journey. UK-Ireland Engineering Education Research Network 2019 conference in Coventry, UK. (Download here).

Already-published work on this project also includes multiple conference papers about Middle Eastern students’ experiences:

CHANCE, S. M., & Williams, B. (forthcoming). Here you have to be mixing: Collaborative learning on an engineering program in Ireland as experienced by a group of Middle Eastern young women. EDUCON2020 – IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference in Porto, Portugal.

CHANCE, S. M. & Williams, W. (2018). Preliminary findings of a phenomenological study of Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering in Ireland. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Download here or here).

An additional report of the Middle Eastern students’ experiences was also presented at the following conference but was inadvertently omitted from the proceedings:

CHANCE, S. M. & Williams, W. (2018). Middle Eastern Women’s Experiences of Collaborative Learning in Engineering in Ireland. International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL) in Kos Island, Greece. (Download here).

In a similar vein to the study on Middle Eastern women studying in Ireland, an additional conference paper has been drafted that relates to people studying engineering abroad: 

Direito, I., Williams, W., & CHANCE, S. M. (under development). Brexit impact: Perspectives of Portuguese students and staff in the UK. The 4th International Conference of the Portuguese Society for Engineering Education (CISPEE 2020) in Lisbon, Portugal. (This one we shifted to SEFI 2020 since COVID postponed the CISPEE conference.)

At the start of this MSCA, I and my colleague at UCL decided they also wanted to learn to conduct systematic literature reviews. They published individual studies using this methodology at the Societe Europeenne pour la Formation des Ingenieurs (SEFI) conference in 2018, and they joined with a third colleague they met there to later conduct workshops on the topic and publish a journal article collaboratively. The citation below is for our initial conference paper:

CHANCE, S., & Direito, I. (2018, October). Identification and preliminary review of doctoral theses in engineering education that have used phenomenological methods. In Proceedings of the 46th SEFI Annual Conference 2018. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship for engineering education excellence. Societe Europeenne pour la Formation des Ingenieurs (SEFI). Copenhagen, Denmark. (Download here).

After joining together, the team selected one of the initial conference papers and developed it into a journal article on the construct of grit and how it has been studied in engineering education.

Direito, I., CHANCE, S. M., & Malik, M. (2019). The study of grit in engineering education research: A systematic literature review. European Journal of Engineering Education. DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1688256. (Download here).

My colleagues and I were able to study and critically evaluate how grit has been researched and reported in engineering education and formulate recommendations to guide others reporting work on grit in EER. This was one of the studies where my colleagues and I were practicing the research methodology known as “systematic literature review” which lead to multiple conference papers as well as the journal article listed above.

Direito, I., CHANCE, S., Tilley, E., & Mitchell, J. (2019, July). Assessing the grit and mindset of incoming engineering students with an emphasis on gender. In Proceedings of the 8th Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES 2019) (Vol. 8, pp. 253-261). REEN (Research in Engineering Education Network) and SASEE (South African Society for Engineering Education). (Download here or here).

Empathy in engineering education: Notes from an informal chat

During our first Big Engineering Education (EER) Meet Up on May 14th, we held seven informal breakout sessions that we called Coffee Chats. One was on empathy in engineering education.

The main leaders of this session were: Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora from the Canary Islands of Spain and Assistant Professor of Departamento de Ingeniería Agraria, Náutica, Civil y Marítima Área de Construcciones Navales at University de La Lugana, and Dr. Sally Male, the Chair in Engineering Education at The University of Western Australia. Dr. Inês Direto and I (Dr. Shannon Chance) assisted. At least 27 individuals participated in the chat.

Following the event, Carlos sent an email documenting the event, which I have used to generate this blog. I believe it’s worth sharing this information as it can be a resource for others to learn from and use. If you read through, you’ll discover:

  • Something special each participant had to say about themselves.
  • Each person’s main interest in Empathy and Engineering Education.
  • Q1: How, if at all, do you intentionally develop empathy in your students?
  • Q2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?
  • Q3: How, if at all, do you research empathy in engineering education?

Dear all,
Thank you so much for your contributions in our coffee-break session about Empathy in Engineering Education. I felt that the session was a success, and that our sharing of ideas, experiences and research was very helpful, pleasant, and productive. The session was a bit experimental, and we didn’t know at the beginning if our idea about using forms, text chat, and videoconference simultaneously would work, but it seemed to work well.

As promised, the coffee-break session was mainly about networking and sharing, and we didn’t want to keep this info for ourselves. (…) I am sharing with you all ideas and comments that emerged during the session. (…) Again, thank you for participating. I hope that this info is useful to you. I am looking forward to seeing you again soon.

With best regards, Carlos Efrén Mora

Email from Carlos

Below is an anonymized record of our communications.

Say something special about yourself.

  • I am a Marine Engineer, but I love Arduino stuff 🙂
  • Aerospace Engineering Education Afficionista
  • I have the Chair in Engineering Education at The University of Western Australia
  • I love teaching
  • I research how to develop competencies in engineering (teamwork, leadership, etc.) and how to develop effective pedagogical practices to promote those competencies
  • I’m teaching practice
  • I teach and research engineering ethics, sustainability, social responsibility, leadership, mentoring, identity, …. 
  • I’m delighted with this new EER communication platform!
  • My research: Humble practice in engineering
  • Process Engineering educator 🙂
  • Director of First-Year Engineering at York University in Canada.
  • Hi! I’m in my final year at Monash University in Australia, completing my bachelors degrees in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering and Biomedical Science. As a side note I’m quite interested in the differences in teaching between the biomedical science and engineering faculties.
  • Passionate about understanding students’ mind
  • I’m a Psychologist
  • Really interested to understand the way that academic systems evolve, or don’t
  • I am a PhD student researching on the experiences of international female engineering students in Australia
  • Mechatronic engineer doing engineering education focusing on sustainability in engineering
  • Former K-12 STEM teacher
  • I would like to do something good for this world and I try it every day in small things and in my PhD research
  • Web Designer and Programmer / Teacher / Social Development Researcher
  • I would love to be helping to make the world a better place, through my actions and through teaching
  • I teach Engineering and I really enjoy it

What is your main interest in Empathy and Engineering Education?

  • Empathy is for me the key to access students’ confident, and a basic resource to motivate them and making them more productive, conscious, and improve society. My interest is learning how to use empathy as a driving feeling to improve students’ and teachers’ motivation.
  • We are working toward an inclusive campus climate and empathy seems like a good way to start teaching empathy to engineering students and researching empathy in engineering.
  • Currently doing research on ethics education.
  • I really believe that students learn better when we show to them that we care about their learning.
  • I think learning is directly connected to feeling safe, included and engaged, empathy plays a big role on that
  • How to develop in all students
  • Advancing empathy in my students’ experiences in their education and beyond.
  • Links to ethical engineering practice, sustainable development
  • Carlos’ student facilitator data!
  • How we can instill empathy as a key trait of engineers (through Eng Edu)
  • Align practice with GenZ interests
  • Seeking ways to help students develop and apply empathy
  • I’m an undergraduate student doing my final year project in investigating empathy and accessible practices in engineering student teams at my university, and I’m really interested in learning what research and information exists currently around empathy in academic settings, especially student-student empathetic practices.
  • Empathy in the classroom for learning engineering skills, relationship between instructors and students.
  • Empathy is key to diversity, inclusion and equity in Engineering.
  • Changing practice
  • Using empathy to understand intersectional identities.
  • We had a workshop on this and it failed badly! like to see what are the alternatives to this and if it can be used for sustainability.
  • Leading pre-college engineering education and interested in incorporating empathy as part of our K-12 engineering programs, which are led by a team of undergrad/grad students.
  • I think empathy can connect and if you are connected you can do great things.
  • Improve my Self About Empathy in Education because I am a teacher.
  • I work with Engineering students on their careers and employability skills and I’m interested to understand more about current thinking on this area.
  • For helping future engineers to understand the perspectives of stakeholders, to be more effective engineers.
  • I am an engineering teacher and I think that empathy is very important to connect with students.
  • I really believe that without empathy you cannot succeed in education or in the professional practice of engineering. And most importantly, it cannot be enjoyed.
Empathy, Compassion, Friendship

Q1: How, if at all, do you intentionally develop empathy in your students?

  • Most often, individual interactions. But also organized programs of study abroad and community engagement projects.
  • I try to actively look for opportunities in one-on-one interactions if it is needed but also I try to lead by example by being empathic myself.
  • Team-based learning; following a systematic framework to create diverse teams with different cognitive abilities and demographic backgrounds.
  • Not specifically empathy, but we talk about professional attitudes, human centered design; internationally talk about respectful listening.
  • Showing students case studies of engineering projects that failed because the engineers failed to engage with and empathize with people.  In design projects, include rubric criteria for plans of community involvement/consultation/engagement.  We are exploring adding community service learning so that students can engage with people and practice empathy.
  • I constantly emphasize (since the first day of class) how intelligent and capable they are. It is nothing based in theory. I try to make them to trust me and believe that I am there for them.
  • Encouraging students to think about what they are creating and how it will be used by people. How it will impact those people. Emphasizing it is not as an end in itself.
  • Stanford Design Thinking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM
  • Not explicitly developed but seen as an enabler of good interaction.
  • Engage my undergrad/grad student team in co-designing our pre-college engineering education curriculum based on their area of study and interest in engineering. This empowers them and reinforces that their knowledge and experience are valued and important in helping to create the next generation of engineers.
  • Practicing empathy myself and maybe a little by introducing a collaborative teaching experience in the lab.
  • We use experiential learning through Humanitarian Engineering and inclusive design.
  • Overseas immersion activities, trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • They have to develop a project proposed by another group, but they cannot start until they know and can perfectly explain the wishes and needs of their “client”.
  • (1) try to be empathetic with students; (2) try to encourage students to view problems from the different perspectives of their stakeholders, and gain insight to the challenges of stakeholders.

In our audio discussion, we talked about learning activities we have led to help students develop empathy. Comments entered in the chat box during this discussion are included below.

  • Service learning and study abroad have been activities I have lad that were most effective.
  • TBL (team-based learning)
  • I try to when I am supervising project groups. Some students just have not ever been exposed.
  • I constantly emphasize (since the first day of class) how intelligent and capable they are. It is nothing based in theory. I try to make them to trust me and believe that I am there for them.
  • We have our students answer 2-3 one page long prompts in a learning journal each week.  We vary the prompts across all domains of their development, however, many of the prompts drive at their empathy for the various stakeholders in their work.
  • Respectful listening to community voices; Yanna Lambrinidou / Marc Edwards engineering ethics course.
  • Gift-giving experience using design thinking by Institute of Design at Stanford.
  • Encouraging students to think about how their developed products would be used by the end user, especially usability for people with disabilities.
  • [Asked to another participant] Can you expand on what that is? Sounds really nice. [Answer] Info on Gift-giving experience using design thinking by Institute of Design at Stanford is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM
  • As empathy underpins trust, in group projects I engage the students in reflective writing and then formative peer assessment (i.e. no marks) which has a focus on making their collaboration more effective which gives them a shared goal
  • We have an explicit rule for all interactions. It is called the rule of 1/x.  Where x=the number of people in the interaction.  eg. if there are 5 student engineers on a team, each person is responsible to participate at the level of 1/5th.  This is for working products, conversation participation etc.  It ends up creating a self-awareness whereby people must be cognizant of their own contribution and those of others.
  • Critical educators create teams underpinned by diverse cognitive skills and cultural intelligence backgrounds.
  • I agree that discussing differences in class helps them understand that not everyone thinks as they do.
  • I see different types developments: active actions, and reflective actions
  • There’s a Special issue on ” “COVID-2019 Impacts on Education Systems and Future of Higher Education”.  Could you please help to publicise more widely within your education networks? I also invite you to submit your work related to this topic. See below link for more details https://www.mdpi.com/journal/education/special_issues/Future_of_Higher_Education
  • I also think helping them learn how to do reflections is key in this space.
  • Engage my undergrad/grad student team in co-designing our pre-college engineering education curriculum based on their area of study and interest in engineering. This empowers them and reinforces that their knowledge and experience are valued and important in helping to create the next generation of engineers.

Q2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?

  • N/A for me, up to now
  • Other than by looking and instinct no I don’t measure
  • Surveys
  • There are reflective essays; but not “measure”
  • I observe, but unfortunately I do not measure, because I have never research this topic.
  • N/A
  • Measuring it by to see if they have listened to their partner (the one they interview to gift). They need to develop the best gift according to their partner’s needs.
  • Through reflective writing but not directly measured, inferred through effective reflection on relationship with colleagues.
  • Informal observations via weekly undergrad/grad student team meeting and post-activity discussions, as part of our pre-college engineering program.
  • I just observe.
  • Observe, but not measure. We see it in the outcomes of student assignments and work, particularly in project-based assessment designing solutions for clients.
  • I they are able to adapt their solutions to the “other”
  • I agree with what a lot of participants mentioned about observing but not measuring. I like seeing this unfold organically. On a tangential note, it has been interesting to see students empathise with academics grappling with online teaching in times like this.
  • Observe through their approach to other students; in how they approach their design projects, if they demonstrate understanding of perspectives, in the questions that they ask.

Comments entered into the Chat about Question 2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?

  • I observe, but I do not measure 😦
  • I look at interactions and the way they express themselves about and towards others
  • They will definitely recognise this by means of SET (student evaluation of teachers)
  • This is really interesting; I consider empathy to be the highest point of respect between students and instructors. I thankfully have been positively rewarded by my students when I show that I care.
  • In architecture we have Student Performance Criteria for Human Behavior, for instance.
  • I think a smile from students is one of the best indicators! 🙂
  • No rubrics to measure.  Maybe something to research.  But I really want to develop empathy to students.
  • I don’t think we explicitly measure it, but it would depend on how you define empathy, or what behaviours you characterise it as.
  • Sometime I see the opposite (resistance among senior students to the respectful listening exercise).
  • I think it is in how they address their design problems, demonstrated understanding of stakeholder perspective in their projects.
  • I agree with this (…), it is inferred from actions but this confuses how you define empathy.
  • Informal observations via weekly student team meeting, post-activity discussions.
  • From a practitioner/teaching perspective, I measure it by levels of engagement and commitment to the course, when they move from grades to caring about the topics.
  • Measuring it by to see if they have listened to their partner (the one they interview to gift). They need to develop the best gift.
  • My project is on student-student interactions, but we’re planning on measuring empathetic thinking by looking at inclusive and accessible practices of students within student teams and other elements such a retention rate and application rate.
  • I agree with (…). I think we look at empathy in how they approach problems and engage with communities.
  • This was the one I was thinking of, for the IR: https://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/EMPATHY-InterpersonalReactivityIndex.pdf

Q3: How, if at all, do you research empathy in engineering education?

  • N/A for me, up to now
  • Not yet, but is definitely a project I am interested in.
  • Linking cultural intelligence to demographic factors, and then the results to cross-cultural interactions including empathetic behaviours in teams.
  • Research somewhat related to empathy = care, sustainability, ethics, societal context, listening to the community,…
  • As far as I experienced engineering is not a field you can go through alone easily, teams and groups as well as collaborations are essential and with all of this, of course empathy.
  • Empathy can let you feel what other people feels and helps you drive all the emotion in one direction for a bigger common goal.
  • We are considering using the Empathy Quotient (https://psychology-tools.com/test/empathy-quotient) to measure empathy in students.  This tool was originally developed by researchers working on Austism.
  • I do not  😦
  • N/A
  • Not yet.
  • I do not, for now
  • I research it tangentially – empathy is related to my research and highly linked.
  • No, I don´t rerearch empathy but I try to apply it and increase it.
  • I haven’t read much on empathy from a research perspective but am familiar with empathy as part of the design process.
  • Still thinking about this…..the research needs to translate into engineering practice that better meets the needs of our global community.

Entered into the Chat about Q3, How, if at all, are you researching the topic?

  • Not yet. But as we are looking at creating a more emphatic climate we will need to see if we are successful.
  • Empathy is part of the research, but we are starting a great group to do research on emotions in engineering education. For me individually I’m interested in understanding how instructor provide and receive emotional support.
  • I’m sending out a survey to all of the engineering students (including masters and PhD students) to gauge their attitudes towards the accessibility of student teams, and to see how those in the teams feel about the culture – so not a part of how empathy is being taught from a top-down perspective, but still looking at how empathy in general is engendered in an engineering context.
  • I’ve supervised research on trust in technology sharing in SMEs and this was shown to be very dependent upon empathy, interpersonal relationships and largely outside any management of the commercial relationship
  • @(…), that’s a very interesting idea. It would be good to understand if engineers even value empathy…
  • @(…) I am interested to see if they do! I have a feeling most engineering students won’t necessarily think of it in these terms’
  • Students tell me they need a mix of ways teams are composed [response from another participant] I think there are times for this but I’m almost exclusively working with students close to graduation in high stakes projects. [reply back] Yes, the year level matters a whole lot. [from a third person] How do you decide when to offer self-selection/ not?
  • I’ve been exploring the role of ethnicity in cross-cultural team activities and found interesting results; BME students significantly showed higher motivational ‘cultural intelligence’ as compared to Asian and White students that may suggest they may be more empathetic.
  • We do blended self-select: so min requirements such as at least 2 of each gender and two non-Dutch speakers and then self-select based on topic.
  • Students sometimes feel pressure from their friends and sometimes they want wider exposure. Because their friends want to group together every time and they don’t get the diversity they want. This is particularly acute for students form minority groups who don’t feel comfortable asking majority students to be in their teams. It takes action from teachers to help overcome that. [Agreement from 3 others, including] absolutely and this is so important [and] That’s why we have a hidden algorithm.
  •  In the UK we really need more women students to allow us to form diverse groups.
  • As someone who is still doing group projects, I usually prefer being allocated into a group – as someone who is in the minority of engineering students, I feel very weird trying to sort out my own group.
  • We are trying to find a space in the curriculum to reflect on the different teams that they have been a part of.  Give students an opportunity to think about self-selected vs assigned teams.  What were the challenges and how did they overcome them?

In the chat box, we also discussed how we see the teaching of empathy in engineering education

  • Critical
  • Succesful
  • Essential for effective engagement.
  • Missing
  • Undervalued
  • The way to support future global working environment
  • Fundamental if we want our students to really help to make the world a better place
  • Not as high as in architectural education.
  • It’s a need.
  • Important for fostering collaboration and self-reflection.

What is empathy in engineering education?

  • An understanding of other people
  • Empathy in Engineering Education is The Next New Boundary to Push
  • Empathy in Engineering Education is… finding better solutions
  • The root for care
  • Culturally hidden
  • Inclusivity
  • It Is a bridge to new knowledge and innovation
  • KEY for a more diverse and inclusive engineering culture = diverse and inclusive engineering solutions [another participant agreed] That’s certainly been my experience as an electrical engineering student…
  • Being involved in academic development I agree that the discipline differences are also shown by staff – this leads to the question of how do staff who find empathy difficult support students, particularly those from minority groups?
  • Some data …There is one unit in all Australian electrical engineering programs which directly addresses empathy as a learning outcome. [Asked by another] which unit? [And] Where about is the program? [Answer] It is more content than a learning outcome. https://www.deakin.edu.au/courses-search/unit.php?unit=SEJ101 and empathy for bais.
  • I think that empathy opens up the ability to understand different perspectives – which opens up different ways of framing problems and solving problems.
  • In the UK the National Student Survey asks if the lecturer makes the subject interesting, engineering scores 5% below the all subject average which may say something about staff empathy?

In the Chat at the wrap-up

  • Thank you for this session.  I learned a lot.
  • Many thanks! Really interesting discussion 🙂
  • Thank you, a very interactive session!
  • Thank you all! very interesting.
  • Thank you! Was great to take part and see you all again!
  • tnx 🙂

Gathering your scholarly community online: B-EER in a Nutshell!

This blog post highlights opportunities I see for building research capacity and sense of community — for networking and sharing knowledge among academics. We’ve being doing some fun and interesting things in Engineering Education Research (EER) and I’m posting help transfer some of this learning to other subfields of education. 

I’ll summarize what we’ve been doing to build community and share knowledge across the EER community globally. Fun communal learning activities have included small group chats, REEN working meetings, MCAA-UK social events, IFEES GEDC online seminars, and of course, the Big EER Meet Up (B-EER)!

Small group chats

I’ve been learning new things everyday, particularly through text chats with Drs. Inês Direito in London, Lelanie Smith in Pretoria SA, and Carlos Efren Mora in the Canary Islands of Spain.

We’re applying the sorts of knowledge-sharing and group-building techniques discussed in a TU Dublin staff training session yesterday. From a colleague’s comment, I found tips from Arizona State University for helping students build a sense of community. I even passed it along to my partner Aongus as he’s starting a certification course online soon and can benefit from the tips; like me, he enjoys classroom interaction and will miss that studying online.

Inês and lelanie, Carlos and I have been chatting virtually about mutual research interests, teaching and student-engagement techniques, and grants for over a year now. We mentor each other.

REEN collaboration

Our Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) Board meets online every month so we’d already gotten pretty good at sharing ideas this way. We share video, audio, and text chat using, currently, MS Teams. We put our agenda in Google Docs and make revisions, converting them into minutes, together online as we meet.

I’m proud to serve as the Chair of REEN, which helps bring the global community of engineering education researchers together through symposia, special focus journal publications, and focused events to build knowledge, capacity/agency, and a sense of community.

The Governing Board is responsible for implementing the mission and goals of REEN by providing strategic direction, continuity, and overall leadership. Each representative serves a four-year term. The main commitment is a 1-hour meeting (held online) once a month, and members are asked also to provide a bit of time between monthly meetings for project work such as: supporting the symposium (e.g., reviewing abstracts and papers), development of special focus journal issues, or serving on special-focus ad hoc subcommittees. We currently have a call for two new positions. Please see our official call document.

REEN recently helped organize the B-EER Meet Up, described at the bottom of this post. We see it as a great way to bring our global EER community together and galvanize connections! 

MCAA-UK socials

Being at home more means I’ve had better chance to attend meetings outside Ireland. I’m in the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) and have been attending meetings and online socials of the MCAA Chapter in the UK the past couple months. Leaders of MCAA-UK introduced me to the paper that I used as inspiration for my B-EER coffee chat featured in an earlier post.

Our May 20th online social of the MCAA-UK

IFEES GEDC online seminars

I’ve also attended several of the now-weekly IFEES GEDC online seminars, featuring well-known and highly accomplished scholars in EER. These are big, high-profile events with up to 500 participants each. There are usually people waiting at the “door” to get in after they’ve reached maximum capacity. At the end, a few people get to ask questions, but there’s not much room to interact in this forum. Nevertheless, I’m getting to hear speakers I couldn’t otherwise (during the teaching semester at least), because I wouldn’t be able to travel to them!

A fascinating recent lecture was on “Problem-based Megaprojects” conducted at Aalborg University. The presentation was by Drs. Anette Kolmos and Lykke Brogaard Berte.

B-EER Meet Up

I haven’t actually summarized the outcome of the Bigg EER Meet Up that I announced for registration in early May. So here you go!

We held our first Big EER Meet Up online throughout the day on May 14th, 2020. The event was spearheaded by Professor John Mitchell, a Director of the Centre for Engineering Education at University College London (UCL). Co-sponsors included REEN and other organizations near and dear to my heart — including TU Dublin’s CREATE research group, Virginia Tech, and UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) — as well as Aalborg University’s Centre for PBL, Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, the Technological University of Malaysia (UTM), and the University of Western Australia (UWA). You can view introductory information on a previous post.

We put this event together in just two weeks, and 550 people registered! The event included seven keynotes — mostly early career researchers (ECRs) and one emeritus professor — and seven break out sessions. We had close to 250 attend each keynote session, and the breakout (coffee break) sessions ranged from about 35 to 90. One session was still going with 60 people in it two hours later! You can access a compilation of the recorded keynote sessions and abstract of coffee chats on a UCL webpage.

I previously posted a blog about one of the keynotes, on Grit in Engineering.

Below is a screenshot of a super-interesting presentation by Dr. Kerrie Douglas of Purdue University, reporting her research on Student Experience and Social Supports in Online Engineering Courses During COVID-19.

Research on post-COVID student experience by Dr Kerrie Douglas of Purdue University. You can view her presentation at https://youtu.be/eZ6pMFWgIq4

I’d say the event was a big success! Productively informal, well attended, with lots of positive vibe and momentum. This is the type of community I want to build and be part of! Yes, there’s room for critical perspectives, but we truly are about lifting each other and the quality of our work UP, as a way to better serve students and one another.

Prof. John Mitchell believes “our best work comes in the discussions and so this was a deliberate attempt to promote that”. After the event, several early and mid-career research told me this provided an introduction to the EER community, good networking, and ability to attend as they can’t always afford the time and costs of attending EER conferences in person (many have technical conferences to attend and fund as well).

Evidently, this Meet Up format helped a gap by providing a more casual and interactive option, online and at low cost. Thanks so much, UCL, for funding the event!

Dr. Karrie Douglas answering questions following her online presentation.

We’ve decided to keep building the capacity of this community by keeping the Meet Ups rolling.

We now envision hosting a mini Meet Up every 4-6 weeks during Work From Home periods, to be organized primarily by UCL and REEN. I’ve recommended this condensed version be just one “slot” long and that it rotate between the three slots we used previously (starting at 11:30 PM, 11 AM, and 4 PM BST to comfortably involve people in all time zones). I’ve recommended that we hold a Big EER Meet Up every 6-12 months as well.

Mini Meet Ups will likely include 2-3 keynotes with at least half featuring early career researchers, then one mid- to late-career researcher presenting per Meet Up to help draw a bigger audience. 

We’re now planning a mini Meet Up for International Women in Engineering on the 23rd June — an EER session with a focus on diversity in engineering. Stay tuned!

Architect-cheers! Fully licensed as an Architect

Is that Architect-cheers or Architectures? Today I’m cheering that my updated license has arrived!

With so many moves across ocean and seas, some of my mail never reached me–including an invoice from the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation in my home state.

Every two years I pay fees to keep my Architectural Registration current, entitling me to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Every year, I also pay fees to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards to hold a Council Record, which is a national-level endorsement that makes getting registered in additional states easier.

I don’t stamp architectural drawings, so I don’t really *need* to hold a license, but I like to stay current and support the licensing and professional development system. Plus, it’s been nice chatting with the folks at NCARB and VDPOR who assisted me along the way. I’ve always believed that being licensed with up-to-date knowledge makes me a more effective architecture and engineering teacher.

By holding a license in Virginia, I’m allowed to use RA or Registered Architect after my name. By holding a council record, I can use NCARB as well. And then there’s LEED-AP, which indicates I hold a credential in Energy and Environmental Design, also earned through rigorous testing.

In the States, the designation AIA is probably the most widely recognized architecture tag after one’s name, and although I’ve been admitted to the American Institute of Architects, I am not an active, dues-paying member so I can’t use those letters now. The fees add up too fast! It would be great to get Chartered as an Architect over here, through RIAI (Ireland) or RIBA (Britain). As you can see, this is all very complicated. The standards, codes, and construction practices vary so much from one country to the next, that each of these would require additional study, testing, fees, and ongoing country-specific professional development.

To get this little piece of paper from Virginia back in my hands, I needed to complete a series of training modules and tests to show I have current knowledge of best practices in the States. I used downtime over Christmas and the pandemic–along with NCARB monographs–to study:

  • Sustainable Design Part I: Green Building Standards and Certification Systems
  • Sustainable Design Part II: Integrated Design
  • Sustainable Design Part V: Trends in the Profession, Performance, and Practice
  • Accommodations for Seniors
  • The Hidden Risk of Green Buildings
  • Building Design and Security
  • Building Envelopes Part I: History and Types
  • Barrier-Free Design and the 2010 ADA Standards
  • Improving Building Performance Part I: Building Performance and Post Occupancy
  • Improving Building Performance Part II: Planning, Conducting, & Applying the POE

Perhaps due to COVID it took a month for the envelope I sent to Virginia with the reinstatement application, check, and proof of CPD to arrive at the office in Richmond. So slow, despite the fact I paid €8.70 (nearly $10) to send registered mail. In the meantime, I’d given up hope, called and found them all in the office and fully caught up with all incoming mail, so I paid by credit card using old-fangled fax technology. Yep, Irish mail is slow, but US use of fax and paper check indicates banking technologies could stand to be updated. The envelope arrive a couple days later, and the folks at Virginia DPOR very conscientiously mailed my paper check back to me. I got it a week ago.

Today, I discovered a new license in my postbox, complete with correct and current address. I’m delighted to have it in safely hand!

A new wave in conferences: Green and Inclusive via online options

This blog post shares ideas from a breakout “coffee chat” at the May 14th 2020 Big EER Meet Up, hosted by UCL with sponsors including REEN and TU Dublin. Our breakout session asked: Can we make future conferences greener and more equitable by providing online participation options?

It may be of use to people planning conferences for engineering education, engineering education research (EER), and beyond.

Title slide listing speakers for the coffee chat.

Shannon Chance initiated this coffee chat due to her concern for reducing the environmental impacts of conference attendance. Being part of the Marie Curie network (MCAA-UK) had made her aware of the scholarly paper on “Evaluating features of scientific conferences: A call for improvements” by Sarabipour et al (2020). This paper formed the basis of discussion. Shannon feels particularly compelled to develop viable solutions as she is the Chair of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) that coordinates the bi-annual Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES). REES 2021 is to be held in Perth, and REES 2023 is scheduled for Hubli, India. Although Shannon is passionate about bringing the global community of engineering education researchers together and helping build EER capacity, she’s concerned that so few can be involved in REES due to cost and distance. She recognizes economic inequality of access to the physical event as well as the environmental toll related to academic travel.

This coffee chat was intended to be informal. It was facilitated by:

  • Dr. Shannon Chance – Chair of REEN, from TU Dublin and UCL
  • Dr. Valquíria Villas-Boas – REEN Board Member, from the Universidade de Caxias do Sul
  • Dr. Inês Direito, from University College London
  • Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora from Universidad de La Laguna

The overall event was globally supported and attended. This graphic lists the co-sponsoring organizations:

Logos.jpg
 (Intense)

The session abstract explained:

Through informal discussion, participants will share experiences of online conference participation, its benefits and drawbacks, and explore how non-pandemic EER conferences could adapt to include rich and rewarding participation for those who can’t physically attend. We will explore recommendations recently published by Sarabipour et al (2020) who believe “Many meetings could still be improved significantly in terms of diversity, inclusivity, promoting early career researcher (ECR) networking and career development, venue accessibility, and more importantly, reducing the meetings’ carbon footprint.” This non-reviewed paper examined “over 260 national and international academic meetings in various disciplines for features of inclusivity and sustainability” and its authors “propose solutions to make conferences more modern, effective, equitable and intellectually productive for the research community and environmentally sustainable for our planet.” With such enthusiastic participation in recent online EER seminars, could EER possible lead the way?

Several resources are available for attendees. Anyone with interest can access them:

A very diverse group attended this coffee chat. We briefly describing introduced ourselves as, for instance:

  • A teacher of engineers
  • I like to work in teams
  • Was on the organizing committee for a conference transitioned to virtual last month
  • I am planning/organizing a conference in pre-college engineering
  • An architect
  • I’m current president of the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED) where I found out how passionate I’m about Engineering Education 🙂
  • I consider myself a citizen of the world. I have lived in 4 countries and 7 different cities, and my family has 3 different nationalities.
We had about 17 attendees in all–good turn out for such a serious topic.

We started by asking participants to take a minute to type into the chat about an enjoyable experience you’ve had in EER virtual learning recently, or provide a short reflection about being a “virtual” or a “face-to-face” person.

  • Virtual conferences are great for being able to attend with less time & money commitment. However, we need better ways to meet people at virtual conferences.
  • I love teaching on a chalkboard! I miss being in the classroom with my students. I am enjoying the interactions that I have with students during virtual lectures, but it feels like the balance of control is much more strongly with me, and I have to remember to give students space to contribute the disruptions that are more natural in the classroom.
  • I loved this [online Big EER] conference!
  • Easy access to EER community across the world. I have loved attending session that are open ended questions about how we navigate online teaching and learning, and everyone can share what they have been doing.
  • I find that being a virtual participant is more environmentally friendly by avoiding air travel. it would also be easier to attend more events than I would in person.
  • Current time is forcing us to adapt quite rapidly to the virtual context, it is important to make the most out of this experience.
  • I prefer being a face to face person; I am more of a “face-to-face” person because I like to see people’s reactions and smiles.
  • I’ve enjoyed getting together with architects and engineers for informal chat.
  • I participated od EDUCON 2020 and I had a great experience participating in workshops.
  • I’ve had more productive and enjoyable small group meetings with my pastoral supervises since lockdown – better than when they are physically squashed together in my quite small office.
  • I enjoyed getting to know a larger group of people (and new topics) in EER that otherwise it would not be possible.
  • I enjoyed being able to meet persons from very different backgrounds and cultures.
  • Many of the most positive and engaging online experiences I have had, have been since lockdown.
  • It’s been nice to travel the world from the comfort of my house while enjoying engineering education research.
  • I’ve been very impressed with how smoothly it has run, and how easy to participate.
  • During this Corona crisis period I have had the opportunity to attend conferences, webinars that I would not have been able to attend in person in a normal period.
  • Last Dec the SEFi working group on ethics organized a two day workshop that integrated online participants in all sessions: online presentations from the team of Virginia Tech (Diana Bairaktarova & Tom Sealy), Q&As taking questions from online participants, mixed breakout tables with both in person and online participants. The workshop had 60% in person participants 40% online participants.
  • Easy access to EER community across the world. I have loved attending session that are open ended questions about how we navigate online teaching and learning and everyone can share what they have been doing.
  • This experience today has been great – lovely to feel connected to people and conversations that I would normally be far away from.
  • Also have been thankful for the opportunity to attend conferences/meetings that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to due to my reluctance to be away from home.
  • Yes, you can “attend” many more conferences in the same time and less expense.
  • Also much more awake for conference sessions (sometimes getting a decent night’s sleep can be difficult in hotel rooms).
  • I think though that it is harder to build the connection with people who you don’t already “know”.
  • There was a webinar by the folks who ran LAK 20 online on two weeks’ notice. The policy was to have speakers present at a time appropriate to their timezone and upload immediately afterwards so that people in other timezones could see the talk.
  • And somehow interacting with my normal face-to-face colleagues via online seems almost natural – the connectivity is there.

Then, Shannon presented ideas from Sarabipour et al (2020), who say:

Science is a global endeavour and we as scientists have the responsibility to make conferences more affordable, environmentally sustainable, and accessible to researchers constrained by geographical location, economics, personal circumstances or visa restrictions.

Sarabipour et al (2020)

There’s a need to modernize and to improve: 

  • Diversity
  • Inclusivity
  • Career development and networking, especially for early career researchers (ECRs) 
  • Venue accessibility
  • Environmental impact, carbon footprint (Sarabipour et al, 2020)

Many can’t travel, for example:

  • Early-career researchers
  • Researchers from young labs and low- to middle-income countries 
  • Junior principal investigators (Sarabipour et al, 2020)


There is inequitable access regarding:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Health and mobility
  • Geographical backgrounds
  • Career stage (Sarabipour et al, 2020)

Geographical inequity:

  • Visa inequity
Maps in the paper by Sarabipour et al (2020) provide a visual comparison of Germany, Iran, Argentina, and South Africa–green you can go without a visa, grey you must purchase a visa.
  • Travel requires resources: time, physical exertion, and family management, as well as funding.
  • “The less wealthy subsidize the expenses of the speakers, who usually attend scientific meetings free of charge.”
  • Registration fees can be steep and “Large conferences are often hosted in expensive cities as there are many accommodation options for large crowds, while conferences in more affordable locations are typically smaller in size.” Food often costs more there, too!
  • “Women and researchers from racial and ethnic groups, who are under-represented in various fields, are the least likely to be offered opportunities to speak at meetings in their discipline”.
  • “The experience of presenting at meetings for early career researchers (ECRs) and minorities who attend has not improved appreciably”.
  • Digital conferences and discussion forums can, in fact, serve to assist communication between early career and senior researchers since writing a comment or question in a forum can feel less intimidating than approaching an established scholar in person.” (Sarabipour et al, 2020)

Environmental Toll: CO2 emissions

  • “Global aviation as a country ranks among the top 10 emitters”
  • “Conference attendance represents 35% of a researcher’s footprint
This was one of four maps provided in Sarabipour et al (2020). For one person, “Flying from Perth, Australia to London, United Kingdom and back for the annual Immuno-Oncology summit 2020 generated about 3,153 kg (3.47 tons) of CO2. There are 109 countries where the average person produces less CO2 in a year”. It’s equal to a full year’s emissions of all the brown areas on this map. This is the same path that Inês and I plan to take to Perth if we are lucky enough to attend REES 2021.

Participants commented:

  • This financial impact will be exacerbated in the current economic climate.
  • That’s a great point @Shannon. We’re teaching Sustainable Development Goals, but attending conferences can have a huge negative impact.

A participant from the US queried:

  • The “environmental impact” from a single conference is miniscule.
  • Of course, this assumes that you believe that CO2 emissions are harmful …
  • We need a better way to “meet” people in online venues.

The last point gained support from other participants:

  • Agree – it’s difficult to do accidental networking/meeting in online conferences – tend to stick to talking to people you already know/recognise.
  • I agree.
  • Absolutely. Many interesting conversations/networking happens in less structured settings – coffee breaks, etc. How can we ‘create’ these opportunities online?

Shannon shared some Recommendations from Sarabipour et al (2020) that could apply in EER:

  • Replace in-person national and international meetings with more ground-based travel to regional meetings
  • Hold small and large meetings fully online or connect regional conference hubs digitally by live-streaming the conference [possibility for REES 2021+EERN-UK/IE]
  • Make research results more accessible globally via virtual access [eg, REEN database] and pre-printing
  • Foster digital networking by investing in relevant, immersive and interactive experiences [do more of these]
  • At physical conferences:
    • Stop generating junk (paper, souvenirs, badges)
    • Organize well-planned networking activities
    • Include public outreach & environmental clean-up (Sarabipour et al, 2020)
Graphic from Sarabipour et al (2020) of key considerations to take into account in planning any conference.

Next we discussed a question posed by Val: Why and how would making EER conferences greener impact you as an EER researcher?

  • Possibility to attend conferences via online would be very helpful for me as a researcher from SA without lots of funds – I would love to attend REEN 2021 but I don’t see how I’ll afford it.
  • Better access to far away and more conferences.
  • It would allow me to attend more conferences, since I wouldn’t normally fly to more than one conference per year for environmental considerations (would prefer not to fly at all).
  • Overall it would make easier to attend conferences if they are virtual. But also, it is easier to make connections in person.
  • Positive impact: more opportunities to attend events and meet people that I wouldn’t otherwise; ‘feel good’ reducing carbon footprint. Negative impact: human interactions are more challenging online.
  • With online conferences might see more female researchers participating, especially mothers with young kids who might find it difficult going away for a longer period of time.
  • I have never been to a REEN conference due to child care considerations, but I would definitely engage online.
  • Online conferences are less disruptive to teaching schedules – you can conduct your teaching and dip in and out of sessions.
  • Sometimes it’s difficult to physically travel to a conference fitting it in around teaching commitments.
  • Is it easier now to justify virtual conferences and meetings? Now we need to do it due to the Covid.
  • But if we want to build networks we have to do that intentionally.
  • I would like for online events to have ‘online dinners’ ‘online coffee breakout rooms’ where people could chat by video in an informal manner or to continue the discussion following a talk.
  • I suspect online conferences would encourage me to take a “chance” on hearing talks from people/projects that I was not aware of before.
  • I think that having online events makes it possible to design smaller, more frequent gatherings rather than trying to do mega-events.
  • When I was in Australia for a year, they told me how much time it took to get anywhere!
  • Some thoughts here on ‘virtual socialising’ at a virtual conference here http://www.parncutt.org/virtualsocializing.html
  • I am certainly more interested in attending a one day event online than I would be to attend a weeklong online event.
  • Totally agree with [above comment]! ASEE, for example, can be overwhelming. The sessions you want to attend have limited places. The colleagues you want to reach/get in touch with are difficult to find in the crowd!
  • I think virtual conferences actually make the physical conference more productive – you can read someone’s research, interact with them online, and if there is traction, you can meet in a physical conference and this will be more productive as you already know each other.
  • Totally agree – mix of virtual & physical is ideal.
  • Yes!
  • I had a glass of wine before talking to Eric Mazur 🙂

Next we discussed the question: How could online participation options work in EER?

  • Can do online collaborative workshops with colleagues at different institutions easily. Definitely easier to attend than in real life but would be my personal preferences to have a hybrid somehow – but unsure if I am at a conference if I would be interested in doing the online version of that….
  • Maybe maintain a certain topic coffee break every x weeks. This way we can meet people with the same topic interests. (Like group writing meetings.)
  • You have to be much more strategic in designing interactions – you just can’t have as many talks in a day, or such quick turnaround between talks, as you would in a physical conference. Large amounts of parallel sessions would be disastrous, I think. Today was a good model – multiple time zones, and everyone speaking was a keynote.
  • The same way works face to face.
  • Combination of keynote sessions, workshops, and less structured formal sessions. Other idea would be to provide the option to join ‘interest’ groups.
  • Would be nice if live streaming/recording of sessions would become common practice. Enabling online participation for in-person conferences. For conferences which are solely online based, including online informal sessions.
  • I went to REES in Bogota, 2017. It was a great experience. The sessions were very interactive. Very different from those conferences where you have 10 minutes to present your paper, nobody asks you a question and that is the end. I think that the way the sessions were run could be done virtually too.
  • Another random idea I would like to share: There are conference apps (Whova at https://whova.com/virtual-conference-platform/, Conference4Me) that have networking features (you can meet other attendees with similar interests). This could easily be extended to online conferences. Also, these apps could be extended to accommodate attending multiple conferences at one time, so you could make up a personal schedule of events from both conferences.
  • Haven’t been to REES either – distance was the reason.
  • I think we need to add ‘bring your own drink session’ to these online events!
    • 🙂
    • BoD
    • Well… this event was, after all, called BEER 😉
    • I agree with you Ines. Also if there were options for people to set up their own private meet-ups within the conference software – just as we would do when we form small groups during tea breaks.
  • Actually the REES format forces you to engage. Perhaps this could be a feature that can be built into an online session.
  • It’s also good to share recordings later – many colleagues couldn’t join due to timezones.
  • If you have a gap between the session and discussion, you might lose people.
  • Based on the number of online attendants today, there is a real need for this type of events.

Shannon posed ideas of holding smaller, regional conferences in alignment to share resources and conversation virtually, for instance:

  • The winter meeting of EERN-UK & Ireland could be aligned with REES 2021 scheduled for December 5-8 in Perth.
  • REES 2021 could broadcast some presentations and virtual attendees (such as those gathered on another site, or in their own homes) could submit questions using, perhaps, Padlet as implemented successfully at REES 2019 in Cape Town.
    • Another alternative to Padlet is Jamboard.
    • Agreed!! I was thinking of Padlet yesterday!
    • @shannon, I agree totally
    • Shannon, its a good idea, I am thinking of two or more research groups in different places meeting, individually, and then sharing their discussions with others.

Shannon noted that we need to implement sliding scales for registration fee, or somehow recognize that people from lower-income countries can’t access many of our events physically. Comments on that included:

  • The conferences that still have big fees are those run by societies that are trying to support their ongoing expenses.  I have seen major conferences where the fee is as low as $30.
  • I’m attending an audio conference coming up virtually but the fee is still $175. Not sure why.
  • Educon2020 had different fees for people from low income countries.
  • ASEE, for example, makes a lot of money at the annual conference to support their headquarters and staff.  Despite the $500 registration fee, they are still taking a hit to their sustaining fund.

By audio, we noted that conferences that had to quickly shift online had made payments out, that would be lost.

  • That point about sunk costs is a good one. The conferences that have paid a lot of up-front fees are mostly this spring and summer. Moving into (northern) autumn, we should see some of the fees come down.
  • Speaking of broadening participation, a virtual conference is a great way to get your students into the academic community at an earlier stage in their education.

One participant said she was new to EER and, in attending this Big EER Meet Up, found this academic community very welcoming. She said she felt much more welcome that in her home/technical discipline. She asked what our experiences were.

  • Shannon described her transition from architecture (teaching in the States) to engineering education in Europe after she attended SEFI 2012 and experienced a very warm welcome.
  • @shannon, I agree with you. I am a physicist and EER community is much, much more receptive than the Physics community.
  • Agreed, also more receptive than Aerospace. Feels like a real community. Inclusive 🙂

The session lasted 1.25 hours, and it drew to a close, participants added:  

  • Great discussions everyone – sorry I can’t stay much longer (it’s supper time in this household) – looking forward to ongoing discussion about moving online!
  • I need to leave now, this was a good conversation. Thank you to everyone for organising and participating.
  • I will also ditch… fake SA winters are hard work! Thanks Shannon, Inês and Carlos 🙂
  • What a great day, and final session. Take care everyone.
    • Bye Diana! Great work!
    • Bye Diana. It was great to see you. And what a fantastic presentation!
    • Thank you ladies! hope we can meet soon. SEFI was also moved online this year.
    • I know. Very sad about that.
  • Diana asked: Why is it so difficult to close this meeting? I enjoyed it too much! If you organize any events or online talks including ethics, drop me an email please so I can include them in the SEFI newsletter!