I found the ‘curse of knowledge’ assignment very interesting. Here students talked about how engineers have trouble explaining what they do to someone uninvolved. One student mentioned that this doesn’t just stick with engineers, it also goes to other subjects (his example was teaching). I agree that this is an issue that most professionals face in their field, for example I experience the same thing with video production. But, the big distinction is that although I do often have a hard time explaining how to make a video to someone, they still can enjoy and understand the video that I created. This is because when I developed the video, it was with intention of the audience. Now, when we engineer things, they should be thought of the same way, but unfortunately, this is a skill that is often left behind in engineering majors. This, to me, is one of the crucial aspects of what CSE teaches. If we don’t build and design with the user in mind, then we are missing a huge step.
The students then started to work on their project. At first, I noticed that they started to jump into a solution before truly knowing the people. For example, in the very beginning one of the students mentioned making a tool for elderly with dementia, instead of just designing for people with dementia. They had preemptive requirements for the tool before even talking with the users. Although I do believe they did this because of an exercise, and it is a good exercise to do, the designer must be able to push those pre-notions aside when talking and meeting with the user.
Overall, what I have noticed in much of their work is that the students often try to jump into a solution before affirming this is the best one. I feel this is a theme amongst many engineers (and I’ve felt it myself). Often, we get excited about a solution and jump into it before we know it is the best and the user will be able to understand it. It is a lot less work to paper prototype a few different choices and options instead of coding it and then deciding it is incorrect. Learning this knowledge is a crucial part of what CSE is teaching.
The students seem to have a good start on their projects, but have a long way to go (they are only halfway through the year). I’m excited to see where their work takes them and what the class will be like.
Christije mentioned that Community Service Engineering as a title might not sell what the class is trying to teach and might not attract so many students. After my time exploring the course content I do agree with her. I think the course teaches much more then how to do community service with engineering (which is what it seems to imply). The big takeaways from the course are how to make something that is best for the users you are designing for, and for this class it happens to be in the social sector. If marketing is a large issue, I think going from an angle that describes the values in what they will learn would be a better way to attract students and show the value of the course over starting with the service aspect..
A difficult part of the integration of CSE with the other postgraduate program is the connection between the classes and the project. In the established postgraduate program, the students do a large project and take classes, but they are very separate from each other. On the other hand, in CSE the project is very closely tied to the course work and could not stand on its own. This is because the project is supporting and developing the skills discussed in the course. If it wasn’t for trying the skills in the project then they wouldn’t be very worthwhile to learn in the class. This is because these pieces of information are something you need to experience in order for them to stick with you. Everyone thinks they know best and understand the people they design for, and think you can come up with the best design, until you have tried to do it yourself and learned that you don’t understand the user as well as you thought you might.
In conclusion, I think the most difficult part of this integration will be linking the project to the classwork. The projects that CSE does, although a project in the social sector, doesn’t completely align with the style of project that the postgraduate course does. The CSE project is very focused on teaching User Centered Design while the postgraduate project is focused on developing something innovative in a pre-existing organization. As simple as it would be to say that you could do a project for the existing postgraduate course in the social field and claim that to be integrating CSE, you would miss out on what they are actually attempting to teach.