Blog Post 8 – Active learning methods at Virginia Tech

I developed a mock case study to be applied to students here at VT. The Case Study stated traffic chaos, longer travels times, longer waiting times, time wasted due to poor coordination between transit modes are typical characteristics in this area of infrastructure. But relatively slow increase infrastructure services compare to the constant grow of the demand are not only related to transit system but to all infrastructure systems such as energy flow networks, housing development, water management and transportation, sanitations, among others. For these reason, it is important that the engineers and designers in charge to address these challenges have approaches that think o the end user, to make the whole system more sustainable.

It is evident the need in our schools to include learning activities to improve the design process. Teaching Empathy as part of the design process will educate engineers, planners and designers to not only consider the traditional traits but to go further trying to understand real human needs, finding low cost solutions that address those challenges that can make an experience much more efficient. The possibilities to teach Empathy should not be limited to only charrette (Walker & Seymour, 2008) and design thinking methodologies, but to expand to many other innovative, interdisciplinary, and sustainable approaches that enhance more complex thinking. More sustainable solutions do not necessarily mean exclusively deep technical thinking, but rather thinking about those who will use the system; by thinking out of the box, using other fields experiences and bringing them back to the specific problem.

I think examples like this one can be useful in all fields that are taught at VT. Allowing students to role play with their majors and use their current settings (where they live, problems they face, etc) to combine their learning with real life problem, which ultimately they are going to face once they graduate.

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