OTREC research revitalizes transportation curriculum

Attendees of the 2012 NTCP conference in Seattle, Wash.
OTREC research is helping change the face of transportation education.
Across the country, at the undergraduate level, universities typically offer an introductory transportation engineering course as part of a civil engineering program.
David Hurwitz of Oregon State University is one of several educators interested in renovating this intro course. In this OTREC research project, Hurwitz helped develop some activity-based learning modules to introduce students to transportation concepts. He points out it is the first time many undergraduate engineering students are exposed to transportation, and therefore, the perfect time to get their attention.
Hurwitz is a founding member of the National Transportation Curriculum Project (NTCP), an organization of approximately ten faculty members, at different universities around the country, that have been collaborating since 2009. The NTCP helped Hurwitz write a National Science Foundation grant to help fund this research project.
“This project stemmed from the recognition that we wanted to try and facilitate change in the way that we teach transportation engineering at the collegiate level, across the country,” Hurwitz said.
The main focus of the course renovation is to move toward activity-based learning, rather than a traditional classroom/lecture environment.
“The traditional delivery of a lecture where a faculty member stands at the front of the room is perhaps, based on educational theory, not the best way. What we’re trying to promote is the notion that there are other ways to communicate information in a classroom.” Hurwitz said.
Activity-based classroom exercises, as well as conceptual exercises, are two key techniques that members of the NTCP believe would greatly benefit educational practices in transportation.
The NTCP hosted a two-day workshop in 2012, on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, attended by 60 participants from 33 states around the country, including 45 professors, six government employees, and nine near-completion Ph.D. students. Their objective was to re-envision the content that should be considered as critical to the introductory transportation course.
The result of the group brainstorming activities was the development and hard copy documentation of over 100 ideas for learning activities in transportation. These brainstorming materials have been digitized and can be found at the NTCP website
Through the work of this OTREC grant and the NSF monies, the NTCP has been able to engage several dozen faculty members from across the country who are starting to change some of their classroom practices. For more information about this project, click here to download the final report.

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