An Innovative Offshore Delivery of an Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Program

An Innovative Offshore Delivery of an Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Program

Firoz Alam (RMIT University, Australia), Aleksandar Subic (RMIT University, Australia), Gregory Plumb (RMIT University, Australia), Mark Shortis (RMIT University, Australia) and Reddy P. Chandra (Stansfield College, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0951-8.ch013


In the era of globalisation, traditional onshore education providers have the opportunity to offer offshore education to meet student needs. Although a number of many non-engineering programs have been offered offshore for some time, the engineering programs generally lag behind due to insufficient laboratory and workshop facilities off campus and the difficulties encountered when trying to emulate this learning experience. RMIT University’s offshore mechanical engineering program is designed to overcome these difficulties by combining traditional teaching and learning with flexible learning modes. The program represents a hybrid approach and has drawn significant interest among students, educational developers, and professional bodies.
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Describe the general perspective of the chapter. Toward the end, specifically state the objectives of the chapter. Engineering education is an organised set of activities that implement learning achievements for individual students to perform creative engineering tasks and solve real-world engineering problems. Off-campus engineering education is an organised effort to realise engineering learning using remote delivery. This effectively removes time and place constraints from education thus enhancing lifelong learning by creating professional capabilities. Today, computer-based information systems have altered the meaning of traditional communication and coordination, making global opportunities possible and global competition inevitable—all of these have significant impact on the delivery of education. In today’s rapidly changing world, educational institutions are forced by financial, social, political and moral reasons to embrace these changes, especially in delivering traditional on-campus education (Alam, Dilla, Subic, & Tu, 2007; Becker, 2006, Bourne, Harris, & Mayadas, 2005; Condit & Pipes, 1997; Downey, et al., 2004; Fiedler, Deans, Loch, & Palvia, 1996). As a result, many engineering education institutions are delivering off-campus/offshore education, including engineering programs (Alam, et al., 2007). However, most off-campus programs in engineering are currently offered at postgraduate level as working engineers find it difficult to access campus based learning. Also, postgraduate programs (such as Masters’ programs) require relatively less contact hours and hands on laboratory work (Bourne, et al., 2005). On the other hand, any traditional undergraduate engineering (mechanical, chemical, civil engineering, etc.) requires more than four times contact hours and significant amount of hands on laboratory practices and facilities. Off-campus learning, where the total learning resources can be taken remotely from the education provider—often in a self-paced form—is more common for social science and general science education (Alam, 2008). It is relatively difficult to provide engineering education in this form, especially mechanical engineering education as engineering education is predominantly science and mathematics based and the courses are relatively difficult to offer off-campus due to the need for hands on laboratory work and more elaborate connection between theory and practice. Traditional engineering program needs hands-on laboratory, workshop, and a range of learning activities in order to achieve the desired learning outcomes (Feisel & Rosa, 2005; Gillett, Latchman, Saltsman, & Crisalle, 2001). In today’s competitive world, employers (from industry and research organizations) wish to employ work-ready graduates with hands-on practical and theoretical knowledge who are ready for immediate work assignment often without even induction training. Engineering educators have vast responsibilities to educate and train the undergraduate student with hands-on knowledge, especially when fewer students come to the university with experience of so called shade tree mechanics or amateur radio operators as hands on laboratories are the only means to provide students the look and feel of physical systems or to develop a feel for engineering (Moore & Voltmer, 2003; Rover, 2008a, 2008b).

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