Joke is a student who is doing her second internship at IMEC, working on corporate social responsibility. In this internship, she is not doing anything technical (unlike her first internship) and is working on writing a sustainability report to communicate to clients what IMEC has down and what they could do more in sustainability.
This is completely different from what she studied and learned in her engineering degree. She is in the program because she thought it would be a good transition from school to the working-world, and the most valuable part has been experiencing working in different companies to see what she likes in a job. Also, the experience of working on a project in a company is very different than anything they have the opportunity to do, and the extra coursework is very broadening. From this experience she now knows better what she wants to do and they type of company that she wants to work in.
She truly values the courses that she is taking and takes them for the purpose of broadening her skills (although she did comment that many of those in the team projects just choose classes to get the credits and not to work hard or learn something). When we started talking about design (specifically UCD), she said that it is not something that is very accessible here, but would be “really helpful in your later career”. Although she mentioned that a blocking point for some students would be the society aspect.
I then met with Christopher Hex. When he started PPIEE he “did not have a concrete idea of what I wanted to do”. Now, he is working on a tech start-up with two other students that they have started from scratch. He gets technical help from his coach and they look for other resources from friends and research groups in the KU Leuven network.
He seemed to talk quite a bit about the technical aspects as well as the professional and business aspects, but when I mentioned design he agreed that there was quite a gap. He mentioned that “everything that can help us advance faster, easier and better would be good. User centered design is very important, sometimes even more important than the technical features, but we don’t have the budget to hire a designer so we do the best with the resources that we have”. Unfortunately, since no class is offered in User Centered Design, they don’t have much experience or know-how in the field. He mentioned “I would like if there was a course on UCD so I could apply the principles immediately in our case”. He had a very strong opinion that the course would need to be a workshop based course and teach design principles (not like how to use photoshop). He said that most of the courses he has taken have been valuable, but it is picking and choosing the right ones because there are so limited workshop-style courses and if you take a lecture based course “you forget 99% of the material in three days”. So, a workshop based UCD course would be incredibly helpful to him.
We started talking about how PPIEE is set up and its evaluation methods. He has been very happy with it so far and values the flexibility and freedom given to students. This freedom allows him to gain experience in a personal and professional level, including many soft skills from having to talk and work with people and make presentations. But, he feels that more recently there has been more of an emphasis on objectives and deliverables. He thinks that if things are very rigid and based on the initial goals, then PPIEE could lose some of its value. This is because the students might do more of what they have to do then what they want to do, which is disparate form the goals of the program. He mentioned that he just finished spending four years on things he had to do and if the program focuses too much on deliverables then students will start to feel more about turning in the required work then exploring themselves as professionals in a new field. He also felt that the evaluation should be based more on what you’ve learned than what you know, because if you come into the program already knowing things and still good at them when you leave, you haven’t learned anything versus the changes that he has gone through. He thinks that the ratio system of grading (30% to this objective and 20% to this objective and ect) doesn’t encourage that.
Joke had a similar perspective on the outcomes. She says that the items are good goals but they get too specific which make it hard to reach a good conclusion. She is doing a blog, that she thinks could be helpful but only if she gets feedback on it. Otherwise, she already tells her mentor everything that she records in the blog.
Overall I believe I got some great information from these two interviews and thank the students very much for taking their time to meet with me. This will very much help both my report now for the integration and later when I work on evaluation.