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Lifelong Learning Imperative in Engineering: Summary of a Workshop
and certification in the health profession was discussed at length. The question of the relationship between lifelong learning and certification was raised repeatedly in the presentations and discussions that took place during the workshop.
The full-day session of the workshop consisted of plenary sessions addressing the potential role of federal agencies in lifelong learning, examples of how the private sector approaches and uses lifelong learning, and the possible role of professional societies. The plenary sessions included individual presentations by notable experts in each area and two panels. Breakout sessions in the afternoon provided the opportunity for workshop participants to discuss the material presented in the plenary sessions. The workshop agenda can be found in Appendix B.
2.1 KEY ISSUES
The full-day session of the workshop began with welcoming remarks by Deba Dutta, Program Chair, and Linda Katehi, Organizing Committee Chair. Linda Katehi began with the statement that lifelong learning is part of an engineer’s career—an observation that is understood by most, but seldom emphasized. She then introduced and thanked the Organizing Committee for this important workshop and the talented and powerful participants that were assembled there. Returning to the topic of lifelong learning as an integral part of an engineer’s career, she further emphasized the economic necessity for lifelong learning and the need for engineers to have opportunities to learn throughout their careers. Engineers change careers many times during their professional life and due to economic factors and the introduction of new technologies and engineering methodologies. Methods and time needed to receive “instruction has also changed. What used to be called “long distance learning” (because the U.S. mails were used for correspondence courses) has now become “online learning” (because the individual can sit down at his or her computer). Learning opportunities via online learning are often close to being instantaneously available. However, neither long distance learning nor online learning includes the presence of an instructor or other classmates. Universities are important because they add the social element and the vitality of a live community. Universities have a responsibility to respond to the needs of the engineer with respect to lifelong learning.
Charles Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering, began the plenary session by reiterating the importance of lifelong learning. He then outlined the history of continuing engineering education, provided observations concerning the current state of continuing engineering education, and formulated questions and ideas that might be discussed as the workshop progressed. Dr. Vest summed up the history and what has been the primary problem with lifelong engineering education with the observation that “faculty won’t play and industry won’t pay”. In other words, academic faculty are concerned with teaching (that is, courses that provide credits for undergraduate or graduate degree programs), research, and tenure; and industry is worried that if they pay for engineers to advance their knowledge through lifelong learning, that knowledge might make them more likely to look for more lucrative employment elsewhere. This quandary led directly to the issue of who should be offering lifelong learning opportunities to the engineer. He gave examples of different scenarios of company and academic views as to how the question of continuing engineering education has been handled. One that was stunning was the example of the U.S. corporate view of lifelong learning for