Monday, January 25, 2010

The State of Electronics Technology Education

Periodically, Lou Frenzel - Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine and an Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College - conducts an unofficial survey on the state of Electronics Technology education. I've reproduced the results of the survey (conducted on the Engineering Technology Dean's (ETD) listserv) below, along with some of Frenzel's thoughts on the survey.

It's good to see that a significant percentage (62.5%) have enrollments that are up - which respondents seem to credit to the poor economy. A troubling stat is that the majority have not made changes to their programs within the past two years and that when asked what new majors or specialties they have implemented, most indicated "other" and most often mentioned "none". With the trend toward green and renewable energy it's not surprising to see nearly 21% have developed programs/specialties in electrical power and energy. Given this, it would be interesting to see how many of these programs are cutting edge renewable/green programs, and how many are partnerships with local utilities to train their workforce.

While some programs may have turned the corner, most still point to low enrollments and poor retention as critical issues. While lab costs, budget limitations, and funding were all cited, one particular nugget that caught my attention was:

  1. bad management and uncooperative/under productive faculty

This to me is probably the most troubling issue in all of technology education. The myriad activities that faculty are undertaking to renew their programs - adopting a systems approach, developing new curriculum, attending workshops and webinars, etc - get us nowhere without the support and participation of our academic leader and our faculty peers.

  1. Your school is

    a. 2-year 61 %
    b. 4-year 43%

    Note: Total more than 100% since some institutions offer both AAS and BS.

  2. Are your enrollments in electronics technology classes up or down?

    a. Up 62.5%
    b. Down 20.8%
    c. Flat 16.7%

  3. When was the last time you made significant changes to your courses or curriculum?

    a. This year. 34.7%
    b. 1 to 2 years ago. 26.4%
    c. More than 2 years ago. 37.5%

    Note: Total not 100% as some did not respond.

  4. What new electronic majors or specialties have you implemented within the past 2 to 3 years?

    a. Electric power/energy 20.8%
    b. Wireless/communications 18%
    c. Robotics 16.7%
    d. Industrial/manufacturing 11.1%
    e. Biomedical 16.7%
    f. Other 33.3%

    Note: Total is more than 100% since several indicated multiple additions. In the Other category here are those listed:

    · None (Most often mentioned)
    · Embedded controllers (Many mentions)
    · Semi/Microelectronics
    · Automotive electronics
    · Networking
    · Photonics
    · Info tech/Computer science/programming

  5. Are you familiar with the trend toward teaching a systems approach (rather than component/circuits approach) to electronics technology?

    a. Yes 84.7%
    b. No 9.7%

    Note: Total not 100% as some did not respond.

  6. Which of the following is the one most critical issue facing your college?

    a. Low enrollments 38.9%
    b. Retention 27.8%
    c. Dated curriculum and courses 9.7%
    d. Lab costs 11.1%
    e. Other 18%

    Note: Total is more than 100% as multiple items were selected. In the Other category the item most mentioned was budget limitations and lack of funding. Other items included bad management and uncooperative/under productive faculty.

  7. What is your feeling about online electronic technology education?

    a. A potential direction for the future. 52.8%
    b. Looking forward to it 22.2%
    c. Not in favor of it 25%

    Note: Several indicated that they were already doing this in a hybrid program, lecture online and on-campus lab.

  8. What is your opinion of current textbooks?

    a. OK as is 25%
    b. Dated but OK on the fundamentals 44.4%
    c. Not relevant to current jobs 20.9%
    d. Covers recent and advanced topics well 9.7%

    Note: Lots of extra comments on this one.

    · Too expensive.
    · Lack of relevance to real world. (Multiple mentions)
    · Can get along fine without text books.
    · Need to go to e-books.
    · Use/adapt engineering/scientific texts.

Frenzel's thoughts:
I have been tracking the status of Electronic Technology for almost ten years now and have written about it extensively in my blog. My impression is that the current status is relatively positive compared to 3 to 5 years ago when enrollments were down and many colleges closed their Electronic Technology departments.

  • Enrollments are definitely up. Several mentioned that the down economy was the main cause with many going back to school to improve their employability. Still, one third of enrollment are down to flat.

  • Those of you who made changes in the program especially adding new majors or specialties survived the downturn of the past years and have turned their enrollment situation around.

  • New majors seemed to help enrollments especially anything to do with power/energy, robotics, industrial and biomed.

  • Despite a positive enrollment status, most indicated that low enrollments were the most critical issue. Retention was the second largest concern.

  • The movement toward a systems approach to teaching electronics (the real world today) is clearly very well known but what I should have asked is who is doing it.

  • I was surprised to see such a positive outlook for online programs. One quarter are clearly against this but anyone denying the online movement risks getting left behind. The Web/Internet is all powerful today and a key driver of our youth. It is the future.

  • Two thirds indicated some dissatisfaction with the textbooks. They are dated and less relevant than in years past. Hope some publishers read this and give us some good updates or new texts.

1 comment:

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