Engineering practice model guides Swinburne’s STEM transformation

Monday 23 September 2019

Students using tablet computers in a lab.

Swinburne's STEM future will combine technical theory with business skills.

In summary

  • Swinburne is embarking on the next step of its journey to transform STEM education
  • The Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology will further integrate practice, innovation and entrepreneurship from 2021

Swinburne is embarking on the next step of its journey to transform STEM education by integrating practice, innovation and entrepreneurship across science, engineering and technology from 2021.

The new model will integrate the experience gained from Swinburne’s Engineering Practice Academy, which was developed with the aim of delivering a new approach to engineering learning, putting practice-based learning at its core.

Since 2017, the Academy has been developing and trialling innovations in engineering learning, teaching and assessment with the broader objective of transforming all STEM courses at Swinburne. 

“The remarkable student outcomes and industry involvement achieved through this model have led us to fast-track its integration across the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology (FSET),” says Swinburne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Duncan Bentley.

“This will form the spine of our STEM education transformation program, effectively combining technical theory with business skills across STEM fields.

“The model creates opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real projects as they work directly with industry and the community – a space Swinburne is renowned for as we prepare our students for the future of work.”

Turning theory into practice

Through the Bachelor of Engineering Practice (Honours), students at the Academy have worked with industry partners such as DuluxGroup, Blamey Saunders Hears and Henkel.

Recently, Academy students took part in an immersive in-country experience in Timor-Leste with Engineers Without Borders Australia.

“Academy students have steadily acquired discipline-specific knowledge and capabilities, as well as the skills and attributes that will make them highly valued and capable professionals,” says Professor Bentley.

“Incorporating this approach to learning and teaching more broadly will assist Swinburne on our journey of creating self-directed, digitally-literate learners, who are prepared for the future of the workforce.”  

Scaling up support

Applying this approach to learning across all of FSET means realigning capacity, with Swinburne determining not to offer a student intake for the Bachelor of Engineering Practice (Honours) in 2020 and an end to the Engineering Practice Academy in its current format.

“The student and staff learnings generated over the past two years have allowed us to fast-track our approach to STEM education.

“It’s a proven model that achieves the results we’re after for both our students and our industry and community partners that is scalable across a broad faculty,” Professor Bentley says.

Supporting new futures

Current students in the Bachelor of Engineering Practice (Honours) will be able to complete the course and graduate with an award consistent with course objectives.

Students will also have the option of transferring to one of Swinburne’s other engineering courses, with tailored individual study transition plans and a range of academic and wellbeing resources available to support their ongoing education choices.

Staff members aligned with the Engineering Practice Academy, under FSET, will continue to use learning from the pilot to help create the transformation of engineering practice and learning at Swinburne as the model is rolled out in 2021.