Understanding the gap between communication in the classroom and communication during an industrial internship

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3 Scopus citations


While it is known that development of expansive communication skills is critical to a successful career in engineering, teaching these skills continues to be a challenge in the classroom. Recently, ABET has updated the engineering communication outcome to include communication to a wide range of audiences. While this highlights the importance of diverse communication skills, most traditional engineering curriculum focus on technical report and presentation skills targeted at an expert audience. To develop a curriculum that meets the updated ABET requirement while providing students with the communication skills necessary to become successful practicing engineers, a better understanding of industrial communication requirements must be established. Through this work, a survey was developed for engineering students who have completed industrial internships, with a goal of understanding communication requirements in industry. Students were asked to identify both audience and means of communication used throughout their internship, as well as how effective their classroom learning, and internships were at preparing them for these forms of communication. Results showed that student interns interacted most with other engineers (of same and different discipline), as well as non-engineers with both technical and non-technical backgrounds. The most frequently used forms of communication were informal conversations, meeting discussions and both formal and informal email. Over 87% of respondents indicated that formal presentations or technical reports were used rarely (2-3 times per month) or less. Of these, 36% indicated that they never completed a formal presentation and 60% that they never wrote a technical report. Overall, students felt that that their internships were more effective at teaching communication to all audiences and through all forms of communication than their classroom learning. These results highlight the current gap that exists between classroom teaching and student experiences in industry, particularly with regard to communication with non-technical employees and through less formal means (informal discussions, phone calls, etc.). Moving forward, engineering curriculum must be developed to more clearly align with these industrial communication needs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2019.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering (all)


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