The Olin Effect The teaching philosophy of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering has migrated nearly 5.000 miles to a college in Brazil.
Over more than a decade. the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering has reinvented engineering education with a focus on experiential, interdisciplinary learning. The approach works; graduation rates top 90% and the student population is half women.
Two years ago, Olin staff earned a National Academy of Engineering prize for innovation in engineering education Other institutions have taken note of the school s unique approach: Through Olin s “Collaboratory,” they come to learn. Some. like Sào Paulo, Brazil s Insper. even get the opportunity to model Olin s process and create a groundbreaking engineering program from scratch.
Insper, a college previously focused on business and economics, wanted to add an engineering program to help develop innovators for the institution and country. [linen Gianesi, the school s director of engineering courses, calls the collaboration between the two schools a “perfect marriage.”
“We realized that the Olin program was creating a new kind of engineer.” says Gianesi. Students have a “can-do” a itude and collaborate in teams. Those competencies are in demand not only in Brazil. but also worldwide, he explains.
Brazil struggles with some of the same issues as the US: a high drop-out rate for engineering (50%) and lack of student preparation for higher education. Olin s model of integrating math and science into the context of engineering helps address those problems. Gianesi says.
Insper faculty first participated in a summer institute at Olin to work in teams and experience what students do. You can divide the career of engineering faculty from before the summer institute and after,” says Gianesi. “It really shapes your mind and beliefs about how to teach engineering.”
Then faculty from both schools visited back and forth to collaborate on curriculum z development, starting with learning goals and desired competencies rather than content. Olin acted as a consultant, but did not provide answers. While some Insper courses look very similar to Olin s, ownership stayed in Insper s hands, says Lynn Andrea Stein, associate dean and director of the Co laboratory.
The process wasn t about building Olin in Brazil. she explains. “It s about building a Brazilian school for Brazilians by Brazilians that was trying to solve. some challenges similar to our own.” In addition, she emphasizes that Olin team members learn from the ways other institutions implement the school s model.
Brazilian regulations also necessitated some ddferences. For instance, engineering programs in the country span five years, after which students can work as profes. sionals and sign projects. That requires more technical content and a reduction in arts and humanities, Gianesi notes.
Still. Stein says. the Olin team pushed Insper to take risks made possible by the blank slate. “There will only be pressure to be more conservative in the future, and this is the moment of maximal freedom for them. ” she explains, speaking from Olin s experience.
Olin students also served as key team members for the collaboration, true to the school s mission of active learning. VVhile Olin faculty collaborated with Insper s via Skype and e-mail between in-person meetings, four students traveled to Brazil for four months in 2014 to help prototype curriculum. adapt Olin s peer-taught culture, and develop activities. As the school was preparing to open in early March. five Olin students were at Insper to work as course assistants, or “ninjas.”
Adi Joshi, an Olin student who will graduate in fall 2017, was one of the first group, and wanted to help bring the differences of Olin to students who would not otherwise have access to them. She says it was “amazing to see how much the Insper faculty listened to us and regarded our opinions and how much of a difference we made in the Institution.”
Post-launch. Olin and Insper both hope to continue the collaboration, and they are brainstor ming opportunities, including a possible study abroad program between the schools.
Gianesi explains that Insper aspires to the same kind of role in Brazil that Olin plays in the US and world, provlding a model for other schools to use in adaptuig curriculum even if they can t create a program from scratch.”In a sense, we will be leveraging the Olin effect and contributing to Olin s mission.” he says.
INSPER PROFESSORS PROTOTYPE A POTENTIAL STUDENT DESIGN CHALLENGE. AN ENGINEERING LABORATORY AT INSPER IN SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL 14 PE APRIL 2015