Courses in engineering and science are typically taught deductively, through transmission of information from instructor to student, followed by practice problems to reinforce what was covered in readings and lectures. Yet in our personal and professional lives, we learn experientially – by facing a real situation and attempting to address it, and from our related successes and failures. Experiential education emphasizes a mixture of content and experiences, connection of learning to meaning and to the world outside of the classroom, and reflection on this for higher order learning and development of new skills and capabilities. Problem-based Learning (PBL) is an inductive, active learning approach that connects learning to real world problems, and provides a context in which students can tether their knowledge and internalize course concepts. Students are thus motivated to seek out a deeper understanding of the concepts they need to address the problems presented in a course. This research focuses on going beyond the technical lecture to enhance the student experience through PBL and experiential education techniques, based on implementation in the Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) College of Engineering Technology, in courses in telecommunications engineering and environmental sustainability. PBL content was developed and implemented with a goal of motivating and exciting students, and enabling them to internalize the knowledge for deeper understanding. This included enhancing students’ ability to think critically about real-world challenges in engineering and sustainability, as well as their ability to address these challenges through an inductive, experiential approach that mirrors the way they will need to approach problem solving in professional practice. Assessments suggest initial challenges for students in self-directed research and working outside of their comfort zone, but ultimately there is evidence of tangible value for student learning, skill development, and ability to succeed and thrive in the field.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



© American Society for Engineering Education, 2019

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Department, Program, or Center

Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering Technology (CET)


RIT – Main Campus