Learning has become flexible in today’s world. Beginning in March, 2019, DeVry University students in the College of Engineering and Information Sciences (EIS) will be hands on wherever they are thanks to a new take-home lab kit based on the Internet of Things (IoT).
“It gives students the ability to do their labs anytime, anywhere,” says James Karagiannes, Ph.D., a professor/faculty chair in EIS at DeVry, an integral member of the team that designed the kit. “It’s a big deal for our students because many of them are continuing their education, have been in the military and are coming back to train, or something like that. We have a lot of adult learners, many with full-time jobs. This is a lot more flexible hands-on option for them.”
The kit is just one aspect of a sweeping overhaul to the EIS curriculum, which includes Engineering Technology, Information Technology, and Software & Information Systems. The newly organized and designed courses build interdisciplinary skills for today’s IoT-based digital lifestyle. Learn more about that in this article on The Fuse, Understanding and Teaching Web 3.0.
The EIS transformation is predicated around a curriculum that really matters in today’s workforce, according to William Phillips, Ph.D., the associate national dean at EIS, as well as Health Sciences, and Media Arts & Technology.
“We picked one of the most obvious themes out there,” Phillips says. “It touches so many disciplinary fields, which the college obviously does. Whether you’re talking about big data, cloud, mobile technology, or new and improved digital devices, it’s easy to add on to just about any discipline and make it fit into that scheme.”
Fun But Not a Toy
Mailed to students upon enrollment, the DeVry IoT Kit can’t help but bring back memories of Erector sets and engineering kits that many played with in their younger years. But, what’s in there is serious business and all about learning. It functions as a personal lab for students to physically practice the lessons they’re learning online and/or in the classroom. Along with the kit, as part of their program, students will also receive a laptop to use during their studies.*
“It’s basically a lab kit students would have and be able to use without depending on physical laboratories at a brick and mortar location,” Karagiannes says. “They have the kit throughout their time at DeVry and it has all the equipment they need to gets hands-on in their courses.”
In the course of their research, the team found that an increasing number of DeVry students are conducting their studies online. The goal: design an equally good education experience for online and classroom learning, which the IoT Kit helps to accomplish.
“This is an opportunity for faculty and students to be on the same page and it helps deliver a more unified curriculum so that students aren’t getting variations between courses,” Karagiannes says. “We’re really happy with way things have gone in terms of the kit we selected and how [the 100] students [we tested it with] are responding to it.”
What’s in There?
How did creators decide what to put in the kit? “We looked at the different courses that were in the new [overhaul of the EIS curriculum] and at what labs traditionally would be offered in these courses. How they could be modified and focused around a particular microprocessor or sensor?” Karagiannes says. “We aligned the curriculum to get a fixed number of devices so we’re course dependent, not curriculum dependent.”
Microprocessors, sensors, lights, a travel router for networking … there’s a lot going on in the kit and early testing with students has shown they use it both for school and for projects outside of their coursework.
“Once they learn to use the devices in there, they are very self-motivated to make up their own designs, create their own solutions, and explore additional possibilities,” Karagiannes says. The kit also creates savings for students who formerly needed access to a greater diversity of equipment. “We’ve taken those classes and designed labs around the kit that make use of it,” he continues. “We were able to narrow down what was going to be in the kit and come up with a really efficient way for students to have this laboratory environment at home.”
The IoT Kit puts real-world hardware in the hands of DeVry students, but an equally critical component is Microsoft Azure, a virtual system that allows students to work without fear of, well, messing things up. “It’s an independent platform that allows students to work on real software with a real server while not using their own computer, or one in a lab,” Karagiannes says. “They can mess up, then just reset and do it again without creating problems.”
Yet another way EIS students are offered flexibility in their academic pursuits: DeVry’s new Undecided Option**. Students taking this flexible academic route will choose a learning path after earning 30 academic credits. It’s basically a chance to get their feet wet while gaining knowledge they’ll need whatever degree they ultimately decide to pursue.
*As part of this program, one complimentary laptop is provided to students enrolled in the Associate of Information Technology and Networking, Bachelor’s of Information Technology and Networking, Bachelor’s of Software Development, Bachelor’s of Electronics Engineering Technology/Engineering Technology — Electronics and Bachelor’s of Computer Information Systems. The laptop is issued during the student’s second session. Certain restrictions apply.
**Must declare a specialization by 30 credit hours for associate degree programs and 60 credit hours for bachelor’s degree programs.