Professional and Career Topics

  • 1.  “Attendance Is Mandatory” - Should It Be?

    Posted 09-12-2022 01:51 PM

    I was having a discussion recently about certain schools not offering remote access to classes. I am curious as to whether or not people who have experienced it find it to be comparable to being physically present in class. With the availability of tools such as digital tablets and software for sharable screens, I can think of many benefits of remote learning, and maybe a few drawbacks as well.

    I can imagine that certain professors make attendance mandatory for a similar reason that certain people doubt the effectiveness of remote-learning: they believe you need to prove your presence via participation in order to learn.

    I have found that the converse to this belief are students who view college as a transaction of “money for degree.” Some feel that not only should they not have to be an active participant in class, but they should not have to attend class at all – as long as they can pass the tests. (this statement ignores classes with laboratory components)

    I can see the reasoning behind both point of views. On one hand, a professor may explain that everything they want to teach cannot be reasonably expected be added to an exam, and therefore attendance for lecture periods is required. On the other hand, a student may believe that “if it isn’t important enough for you to figure out how to test me on it, then why should I even need to learn it anyway?”

    This same framework of questions and doubts can be applied to professional development courses in the working world as well. For example, I have found that certain webinars I attended from my home were very informative and educational, and conversely have been in the situation where I have spent time, money, and resources to fly across the country for in-person professional development, and have gotten nothing more out of the experience than what I could have gotten if the class had been offered online.

    I believe that these questions touch on a number of different topics about the value of being in person, using an "in-person requirement" as a form of job or cost justification, and the different outlooks on learning in its current forms as a holistic and worthwhile pursuit or just a series of hurdles to jump through with minimal possible friction.

    What do you think about the benefits and drawbacks of in-person vs remote learning, in either academia or the professional engineering world after school?



    ------------------------------
    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: "Attendance Is Mandatory" - Should It Be?

    Posted 09-13-2022 02:34 AM
    As a professor, I much preferred in-person classes because eye contact and body language allowed me to detect lack of understanding and brain-numbing boredom. Nevertheless, I never required attendance for upper-level or graduate students, only for 1st and 2nd year students who might need extra motivation. Also, students who took my upper levels classes remotely, both synchronous and asynchronous, did about as well as those who took them in person. With both, students who missed a lot of lectures did poorly on tests.
    Remote learning does require extra effort by the instructor -- maintaining an active web site with handouts, assignments, and discussion forums.

    ------------------------------
    William McAnally Ph.D., P.E., D.CE, D.NE, F.ASCE
    ENGINEER
    Columbus MS
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: "Attendance Is Mandatory" - Should It Be?

    Posted 09-13-2022 10:39 AM
    Hi Chris,
    Great thoughts. I've been both a student and a professor of both in-person and online courses. I prefer to teach in person but I also recognize the advantages of online/asynchronous learning. I love in-person teaching because I genuinely want to hang out with the students. The "hall way conversations" is invaluable in my opinion. I get to know you and you get to know me. When I understand the students lived experiences, I'm more in touch with what that student needs. While I may have certain topics in the syllabus I intend to cover on a given week, I can adjust the depth of complexity based on the interaction and feedback. That element is a little lost in the online courses. On the other hand, online modalities improves access to those that can't make it to an in person setting. I didn't come from a well-to-do family and had to work full time to make ends meet. Night classes and online was the only option for me.

    Towards your "transactional" student ,as you called it, I try to help them achieve what they are looking for via test outs and independent study but in the back of my mind I'm incredibly annoyed and see the real shame in that mindset. It's the same as saying I don't value you! Particularly in engineering, there is a reason your professor got placed in that position. Time spent with others can be a pretty powerful molder especially when the other has seen, done, and spent a lifetime studying a topic. Somethings just take a bit of serendipity while others might be determined by spreadsheet or tests.

    ------------------------------
    Jesse Kamm PhD, PMP, A.M.ASCE
    Senior Vice President of Construction Management
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: "Attendance Is Mandatory" - Should It Be?

    Posted 09-15-2022 03:52 PM
    My masters program was supposed to be in person. Due to the pandemic and then some political strife, campus didn't reopen until I had finished all my courses. Luckily, the school was already launching hybrid and online options when the pandemic hit the country, so the hardware and software were in place already.

    Pros:
    -flexibility for working students and students with families to care for
    -ability for professors to be abroad or in other parts of the country (I had an excellent South African professor for one of my courses)
    -ability for students to be anywhere (I started my first course from the States before my move)
    -saved transportation costs
    -saved time with no commute
    -since I was studying in my 2nd language, no one could see if I looked confused (I could use a translation page or dictionary to confirm word meanings or look up a word I heard or needed to say)

    Cons:
    -difficult to develop close relationships with professors
    -very little collaboration with other students outside of assigned group work since there aren't many organic ways for study groups to form when not in person
    -group projects and breakout discussions can be awkward when you can't see one another (even with video on, it isn't natural body language and there is no eye contact)
    -since I was studying in my 2nd language, no one could see if I looked confused (they couldn't rephrase or slow down by the visual cues)

    I had one in-person session with a classmate and the Maestro that was overseeing our so-called "credit by exam" course which was actually credit by project for us. In that one session at Starbucks at the end of my program, I felt closer to anyone than I had the whole year and a half of my program. From there I went to the celebration of the liberation of our campus, and I almost cried because, for the first time, I really felt like I was a part of the student body and the university as a whole. (I felt dumb when I realized I was getting watery-eyed, but there is something really powerful about a group of people with a shared experience coming together like that.)

    I think there are benefits to being in person. I'm sad I didn't get that option as originally planned. There also also benefits to the option to be hybrid or remote. It all depends on what your priorities are. I got my Masters abroad, so part of what I'd looked forward to in the cultural exchange was lost by being online. I still got to experience it some outside of the university and to a lesser extent in online classrooms, but it wasn't the same.

    For work, I like to predominately be in the office, but I enjoy the flexibility to sometimes work from home. There is so much bonding and collaboration that happens in the day-to-day in the office that doesn't happen online or remote. I enjoy my coworkers, and I wouldn't want a job where they felt as much like strangers as my online classmates and professors did.

    ------------------------------
    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: "Attendance Is Mandatory" - Should It Be?

    Posted 09-19-2022 05:51 PM
    Thanks Christopher.

    Q. "What do you think about the benefits and drawbacks of in-person vs remote learning,
          in either academia or the professional engineering world after school?"

    A. It depends.
    Engineering educators and those who require or do not require what courses make up the person's education
    for the world of engineering work once graduated do an excellent job with technology within the various disciplines.

    The continued "Missing Link" is the persistent lack of required soft skills that enable graduated engineers "How to play nice with others."

    The continued use of the expression itself, "Soft Skills," in and of itself is a gross misnomer.
    e.g., Give structural engineers a choice between doing indeterminate structural analysis vs. asking a non-civil engineer
    for their opinion in a project. What has their education and experience guided them to do first, and how?

    Cheers,
    Bill
    p.s. Going forward from year 2022, isn't it long overdue to educate engineers why, what, and how to collaborate, communicate, and cooperate
    with other people prior to acting?    "Radical Listening™ " may be a great place to start.





    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: "Attendance Is Mandatory" - Should It Be?

    Posted 09-19-2022 04:50 PM
    Hi, I prefer a hybrid of both, for example, lectures can accommodate those that need a bit of flexibility to learn from home or from work (assuming the school site is far away), and the lab components can be taught live, it also depends how the online instruction is being taught, is it engaging? or are they prerecorded? and how's the student's ability to want to learn? in Spanish we call this GANAS (motivation), watch "Stand and Deliver" and you'll see what motivation is all about, God bless and thanks for the question,

    ------------------------------
    Humberto Gallegos Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Professor
    California Baptist University
    Riverside CA
    ------------------------------