Infusing Innovation and Entrepreneurship into Engineering Education: Looking for change as seen by ASEE members 2012 to 2015
During the Fall of 2012 (Baseline) and Spring of 2015 (Follow-up), SageFox and the Epicenter research team developed and administered surveys focused on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) in undergraduate engineering education. The purpose of the study and subsequent follow-up was to establish a baseline that could be used by Epicenter to assess changes over time in I&E initiatives within this community.
These surveys were administered to communities within ASEE, including ASEE Campus Representatives, Entrepreneurship and Engineering Innovation (ENT) Division members, and subscribers to ASEE’s Connections and Capitol Shorts newsletters.
144 and 171 faculty and administrators, representing more than 90 and 100 higher education institutions, responded in each year, respectively.
Our findings cluster around the following key questions:
1. What is I&E?
There is a shared understanding around the definition of I&E, in particular around concepts such as “creativity” and “market awareness.” Yet, among ENT members, ‘value creation’ is much more likely to be cited as primary components of I&E, blending more of the ‘entrepreneurship’ side of I&E. Non-ENT respondents were much more likely to mark ‘product development’ as a key component, in line with the ‘engineering design’ view around the ‘innovation’ side of I&E (a more traditional, product-centered approach to I&E).
2. What role does/should I&E play in engineering education?
I&E education especially within engineering is not a fad: interest in the subject, and the community around I&E, remains very high. Both in 2012 and 2015, when asked to rate the current and desired level of I&E offerings for students, respondents marked the desired levels of student engagement via required courses (60%), electives (95%), and extracurricular activities (95%) at twice the current levels of practice..
3. What are the practices that promote or inhibit implementation of I&E?
Our data show student demand for I&E remains strong, and students take advantage of available opportunities. Faculty, however, are less uniform in their support for implementing I&E. A ‘lack of room in the curriculum’ continues to be the most-cited barrier to success, and for many institutions/programs this is directly tied to ABET requirements. (Interestingly, ENT members, were less likely to cite ABET/curricular-room issues as barriers than non-ENT respondents.)
‘Faculty resistance’ remained the second-most cited barrier to implementing I&E within the engineering curriculum in 2015, with most respondents expressing that there were a few highly-engaged faculty on their campuses with respect to I&E. Importantly, administrative resistance –listed as a major barrier in 2012 – fell dramatically (nearly to zero) 2015. We note also that while lack of funding continues to be a major issue overall, it is much less so for private institutions, who are able to respond to emerging trends and needs with more fiscal agility than their public peers.
Overall, there are many indications that despite the high inertia associated with making change in education, especially engineering education, that the momentum around I&E persists; barriers are being lowered and gaps are narrowing.