‘Softwhere’ in the Curriculum



By Donna Beneteau, Departmental Assistant, Mining – Civil and Geological Engineering

In the era of rapidly developing technology, an efficient use of words in the title seemed appropriate. “Software, where in the curriculum?” didn’t provide the same effect. This question is now something that I ask myself after developing an assignment for the Gwenna Moss Centre’s course “Introduction to Learning Technologies”.

I prepared and gave a survey asking 2nd and 4th year Civil, Environmental and Geological Engineering students questions about software that they use in school, on summer jobs and on internships. In total, I received 214 responses, 110 from CE295 and 104 from CE495. As expected, the confidence level with Microsoft products increased as students learned tips from each other while doing regular group projects. However, the overall comfort level with AutoCAD (a drawing software commonly used in these disciplines and a course they take at Saskatchewan Polytechnic) actually declined between 2nd and 4th year, as some students forget what they learned.

AutoCAD and Microsoft products are only a few of the software types that students are exposed to in these fields of engineering. The combined list of software was over 30, with some being quite involved to learn. The value that specialized software brings is that it is written by experts in the field, and exists to automate repetitive or complicated procedures. Software can be difficult to learn and remember if you don’t use it, but it can also be a great bullet on one’s resume.

Looking forward, I think this survey highlights the need for strategies to integrate technology into certain programs. This should be done in consultation with students and industry. In doing so, this may help to see if tools are needed in programs, if better support could be given to students, or if perhaps we should standardize on one type (the Word-versus-WordPerfect-type debate). Also, this could avoid so many of the formatting errors we see over and over again on assignments. After all, one of the purposes of a post-secondary education is to get a job, and most jobs now are dependent on technology. So let’s not forget to formally think about software in curriculum development.

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