Civil Engineering Self Improvement

Our department utilizes a comprehensive assessment process that consists of collecting information from constituents using assessment forms, direct interviews with student leaders, course assessment, faculty assessment, recommendations from ABET, and exit interviews with graduating seniors.  Using these assessment tools, the Civil Engineering Program was able to identify deficiencies and address them.  Based on the assessment cycles in 2007-08 and 2010-11, the Civil Engineering Program took drastic actions to correct many of the problems cited by our students and other constituents.  The changes included:

The assessment process in 2011 revealed two weaknesses that have been addressed. First the CE laboratory and computing facilities received a low score in 2011 and 2012. Subsequently, the department spent over $40,000 during summer 2012 to completely replace machines in its computing laboratories with quad-processing computers. A new hire for departmental computing services has made improvements in the network.

Another identified weakness has been the CE senior project design course. Starting in the spring 2012, Dr. Al-Khafaji hired three practicing civil engineers to teach three different sections of CE senior design. These sections permitted seniors to select projects emphasizing their preferred subdiscipline: structural, environmental, or transportation engineering.

  1. New Civil Engineering Assessment Forms Developed.
  2. New Computer Program for Civil Engineering Assessment Data Analysis
  3. New Civil Engineering Program Objectives

In addition to the annual retreat and student exit interviews, the CEC department implements a comprehensive assessment cycle once every three years. The last cycle was completed in 2010-2011 and data collection efforts for the 2013-2014 cycle have already started; The assessment cycle normally takes about one year because it involves seven constituents, including employers whose input is solicited during the Annual CEC Job Fair held in the fall, the Advisory Board meeting held in the spring, and the alumni who are solicited throughout the year.

The department utilized its own gift funds and invested over $80,000 to improve its laboratories and address weaknesses identified by its constituents.  These include

  1. The Surveying laboratory was overhauled with new chalkboard, storage, removal of sinks, new tiles, and new ceiling.  The new facility was used in fall 2010.
  2. The Geotechnical laboratory was remodeled with new cabinets, new equipment, and removal of obsolete equipment.
  3. The Concrete laboratory was totally overhauled and the humid room fixed, new titles, new equipment purchased and some fixed, new drain, new sinks, and a storage room. The sprinkler system in the curing room in the concrete laboratory now works.

A total of 31 new computers were purchased and installed in Jobst 126. The new computer facility addresses many of the issues cited by our students. The total cost exceeded $60,000 and the CEC gift funds were used to partially pay for this purchase.

The Department of Civil Engineering and Construction has recently completed a thorough review of its program. The review included all civil engineering faculty who considered all prerequisites for their courses. Several committee meetings during the fall 2009 culminated in a proposed program modification that was considered at an all-day departmental meeting. The proposed program includes a reduction in number of hours to graduate, a set of course modifications including changes in prerequisites and course number, and a few course additions or deletions. A brief rationale for each of these is described below.

The proposed Civil Engineering program is a slight program modification in that the total required hours for graduation is being reduced from 130 to 127. The 3-hour reduction is accomplished by a more efficient use of our laboratory instruction for three courses. CE 124 is being reduced from two hours to one. CE 304, Fluid Mechanics, with lecture and laboratory is being reduced from four hours to three; and CE 304 is renumbered to be CE 260. The laboratory hours devoted to concrete and steel is being reduced from two hours to one.

Course modifications are proposed for three reasons: a) additions, modifications, and deletions of prerequisites are being made to ensure that only essential prerequisites are retained and unnecessary prerequisites are removed; b) the description of catalog content and course titles ensures a more accurate description of our program, c) course numbers were revised to properly reflect the order that courses must be taken according to prerequisites. The modification of prerequisites eliminates unnecessary burden on our students and on faculty advisors. More importantly, it also ensures a proper enforcement of the program’s academic standards.

Several course modifications are noteworthy. One important course addition is CE 393, a required course that emphasizes important and required aspects for civil engineering accreditation. These aspects are sustainability, related aspects of economics, and the social and professional responsibilities of a Civil Engineer including ethics, life-long learning, and licensure. CE 280, Structural Materials Lab” is being deleted because laboratories in all Civil Engineering materials: soils, asphalt, fluids, concrete and steel, are being bundled with an appropriate lecture course for that material. Therefore, the hours for certain lecture courses are being increased from three to four to permit an associated laboratory. Finally, the senior design project course will be offered for one and thee hours respectively for the fall and spring semesters. During the fall semester, students will be introduced to various business aspect of civil engineering also including leadership, ethics, public policy issues, and LEED.

The quality of instruction by faculty in mathematics has been an issue for many years and the concern was echoed by other departments in the college of engineering.  Unfortunately, the university has been unable to address this problem in spite of many attempts by our Construction program to improve this area.  Our Construction progarm will continue to press the issue and provide support to students who may need help in reaching their instructional goals in Mathematics.

To improve the math contents of the program MTH 116 “Brief Calculus With Applications II” was deleted in favor of QM 262 “Quantitative Analysis I” to provide material that is more useful to our students when they take upper level required courses and elective graduate construction courses such as scheduling, advanced scheduling, and construction simulation.  Finally, special Topic and Project courses were introduced in place of the CON 409 Special Topics course in order to aid in alleviating difficulties by providing the opportunity to offer topic courses as needed during the transition period that has started in the current 2010-2011 academic year.

The quality of the BU library and services received the lowest score from surveyed students.  During the assessment interviews, most of the students indicated that do not go to the library as they found it to have inadequate resources and to be uncomfortable, hot, and generally not an environment that is conducive to studying.  The quality of library has been a concern for quite some time and the department has raised the issue to the Bradley University administration.  Recently, the university started taking steps towards updating the library and bringing it up to par with what one would expect to see at a 21st century institution of higher education.

This was a major issue in the Civil Engineering program but did adversely impact our Construction program. The hiring of a new faculty in Construction to replace a retiring professor will allow our Construction to offer more elective courses.  In fact, during our study abroad program in 2009 and in 2011 elective courses were also taught by a Construction faculty form the American University in Cairo.

A new sequence of CE 493 and CE 498 was developed and is being implemented for the first time during the 2012-2013 academic year. The sequence includes a one credit hour senior project planning class in the fall and a three credit hour projectdesign course during the spring semester. Practicing engineers are hired during the spring to mentor the students through the completion of a real design project.

This was purchased and training for faculty was initiated in 2009-2010.  It is now incorporated into our surveying laboratory.  This course is required of all Construction majors.

Dr. Al-Khafaji was appointed by Mayor Ardis of Peoria to be the Chairman of the Sustainability Commission. Our Construction and CEC majors attended many seminars and conferences on the subject.  We also invited speakers into classes to speak on LEED.  Finally, part of the requirement for the Construction Senior Project course is a section on LEED.  This is an area where we believe that short courses on LEED will soon be offered to help our students.