Envisioning engineering education and practice in the coming intelligence convergence era — a complex adaptive systems approach

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Some of the recent attempts for improving and transforming engineering education are reviewed. The attempts aim at providing the entry level engineers with the skills needed to address the challenges of future large-scale complex systems and projects. Some of the frontier sectors and future challenges for engineers are outlined. The major characteristics of the coming intelligence convergence era (the post-information age) are identified. These include the prevalence of smart devices and environments, the widespread applications of anticipatory computing and predictive / prescriptive analytics, as well as a symbiotic relationship between humans and machines. Devices and machines will be able to learn from, and with, humans in a natural collaborative way. The recent game changers in learnscapes (learning paradigms, technologies, platforms, spaces, and environments) that can significantly impact engineering education in the coming era are identified. Among these are open educational resources, knowledge-rich classrooms, immersive interactive 3D learning, augmented reality, reverse instruction / flipped classroom, gamification, robots in the classroom, and adaptive personalized learning. Significant transformative changes in, and mass customization of, learning are envisioned to emerge from the synergistic combination of the game changers and other technologies. The realization of the aforementioned vision requires the development of a new multidisciplinary framework of emergent engineering for relating innovation, complexity and cybernetics, within the future learning environments. The framework can be used to treat engineering education as a complex adaptive system, with dynamically interacting and communicating components (instructors, individual, small, and large groups of learners). The emergent behavior resulting from the interactions can produce progressively better, and continuously improving, learning environment. As a first step towards the realization of the vision, intelligent adaptive cyber-physical ecosystems need to be developed to facilitate collaboration between the various stakeholders of engineering education, and to accelerate the development of a skilled engineering workforce. The major components of the ecosystems include integrated knowledge discovery and exploitation facilities, blended learning and research spaces, novel ultra-intelligent software agents, multimodal and autonomous interfaces, and networked cognitive and tele-presence robots.

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Correspondence to Ahmed K. Noor.

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Noor, A.K. Envisioning engineering education and practice in the coming intelligence convergence era — a complex adaptive systems approach. cent.eur.j.eng 3, 606–619 (2013).

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  • Anticipatory computing
  • Augmented reality
  • Complex adaptive system, Convergence
  • Flipped classroom
  • Game changers
  • Immersive 3D learning
  • Intelligence era
  • Learnscapes
  • Tele-presence robots