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        "Best Paper" Awarded to Harbert Research Team

        April 21, 2014

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        Yun Wu and Chetan Sankar
        Graduate student Yun Wu, left, Aviation and Supply Chain Management Professor Chetan Sankar, and Benjamin T. Hazen, below, researched innovations for engineering education.

        As engineering breakthroughs occur, the need for more innovation in engineering education increases. But what are they, what are the factors that make innovations more easily adoptable, and what are the barriers and how can they translate into classroom settings?

        Chetan S. Sankar, and co-authors Benjamin T. Hazen and Yun Wu, offered a few suggestions: Relative advantage. Compatibility. Usability. Complexity. Adaptability.

        Those are just some of the examples cited as design considerations for developing educational innovations in the paper “Factors that Influence Dissemination in Engineering Education” by Hazen, a 2012 Harbert College of Business doctoral graduate, Wu, a Harbert College doctoral student, and Sankar, Advisory Council Professor in Aviation and Supply Chain Management.

        Their nine-page research piece was so convincing, that it earned “Best Paper” status by IEEE Transactions on Education, a Tier 1 journal. Sankar will represent Auburn and Harbert College in accepting the award at the Frontiers in Education Conference, Oct. 25, in Oklahoma City.

        Sankar, who has worked at Auburn since 1989, developed the idea for the research at a National Science Foundation (NSF) Principal Investigator conference in 2011 while leading the session, “National Dissemination of Multimedia Case Studies that bring real-world issues into engineering classrooms.”

        Then he brought the idea back to Auburn.

        “I found that other many faculty members developed new materials, but it was difficult to get them disseminated, adapted and used in classrooms,” Sankar said.

        “Therefore, I assigned this as a topic to my doctoral students in Spring 2011 (Hazen and Wu) so that they can develop a scholarly paper discussing the factors that make educational innovations be disseminated better. These outstanding students developed the paper which was further revised and published in the IEEE Transactions on Education during 2012.”

        Wu said she and Hazen worked to “look for theoretical models and figure out how to connect the theories with the success and failure of various educational projects in engineering that principal investigators have performed using NSF grants.”

        “We came up with suggestions for implementing educational innovations and teaching methods – ‘what kind of factors should the authors include so that the material gets more widely used?’” Wu said.

        Hazen noted that nine factors are “most important for facilitating acceptance and use of engineering innovations.”

        “In particular, new materials should be designed such that they demonstrate an obvious relative advantage over existing materials, are compatible with and adaptable to existing pedagogy, lack complexity, and are generally easy to use,” he said. “Management support and availability of resources are found to be important environmental conditions that facilitate acceptance; logistical issues and cultural differences are the chief impediments. The findings of this research effort offer guidance for those in engineering education to better disseminate educational innovations, and thus better motivate and educate tomorrow’s knowledge-based workforce.”

        Sankar has furthered his studies on the subject with colleague Allison Jones-Farmer, Associate Professor in Supply Chain Management. The team, along with doctoral student David Bourrie, received a grant from the NSF during 2012 to continue studying the issue using a literature review, Delphi study, and a survey.

        Hazen, who earned his doctorate in Management from Harbert, is a U.S. Air Force maintenance officer stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. He has been on active duty since 1999, earning an undergraduate in Business Administration from Colorado Christian University in 2004 and MBA from California State-Dominquez Hills in 2007.

        Wu is pursuing her doctorate in Aviation and Supply Chain Management. She earned her undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems from Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications in 2005, and master’s degree in Management Engineering from Politechnico di Milano, Italy, in 2007.