Questions for the Dean

Posted on May 22, 2020

Some of our alumni recently sent in questions for the Dean about the challenges that the Faculty is facing during the COVID-19 crisis:

Picture of he dean

What have been some of the greatest challenges faced by the Faculty as you move operations to a more virtual format?

Probably the biggest challenge is how we can create a sense of community even though we are physically separated. That community support is one of our greatest strengths, and it’s very strange to see our campus so empty.

But we are problem solvers, and the spirit of our Engineering community – students, staff, faculty and alumni – is unstoppable. We’re pulling together to find creative solutions to virtually make those important connections, and to ensure that we support each other until we can be together on campus again.

What are your thoughts on the use of online learning as a permanent part of the pursuit of a Queen’s engineering degree?

I’m of two minds about this. For the most part, engineering is a that is challenging to learn online. It requires hands-on experiences, design and build activities, mentorship in problem solving and many team activities that simply cannot be reproduced remotely.

At the same time, however, I know that we can deliver excellent remote learning experiences with appropriate technology. Advances in virtual reality and other interactive online tools gives us new ways to learn and engage in different ways. And we continue to focus the important work of mentoring students to develop the important problem-solving skills they need to thrive.

To use an engineering analogy, I believe this experience will be more of a step change than a transient. We will not return to what was. We will return to in-person instruction, but we will also take advantage of what we have learned to continue to transform engineering education and ensure that our future engineers have the skills they need to contribute to society, in whatever career path they choose.