In recent years, there has been a call for education initiatives targeted to refugee camps. In 2017, Purdue University and the University of Geneva implemented an engineering course that responded to these concerns by empowering learners to not only address challenges in their communities but also develop engineering thinking. The pedagogical core of this course was grounded in the principles of a democratic learning space. The purpose of this work-in-progress is to describe our approach and illustrate artifacts from the pilot course. In doing so, we address three key objectives:
1. What aspects of the introductory engineering course (intended outcomes, assessments, and activities) were contextually aligned to opportunities and constraints in the Azraq refugee camp?
2. How did the introductory engineering course foster students’ social responsibility to the local community of Azraq?
3. In what ways can the final course outcomes be aligned with social responsibility?
Azraq hosts the second largest camp community of refugees in Jordan, representing a total of 53,833 people of concern originally from Syria. As the conflict in Syria has continued, the size of the Syrian population forced into refugee conditions has increased. The United Nations called for immediate action to assist people in Syria, considering the fact that over half the country’s population have fled their homes, and 4.8 million people are refugees in the region and beyond . Given this ongoing crisis, we designed the course to enable learners to learn technical engineering skills and provide access to higher education by awarding academic credits at the end of the program. We used a combination of remote and local staff as facilitators in addition to technology tools for online and active learning. The overall structure of our course is set up as an active, blended, collaborative, and democratic learning space.
In light of the unique educational context, we describe in this paper our course design process, and then we explore student artifacts, interviews, observations, and surveys to answer our three objectives. In doing so, we believe this research and application example can contribute to the literature by understanding an implemented course structure and the development of students’ technical and non-technical skills, sense of community, social responsibility, and sense of independence in refugee settings.
This paper is structured as follows. First, we present the overall motivation prior literature about educational initiatives addressed to refugee contexts. Next, we describe our course context and teaching and learning strategies we adopted. We then address our research objectives by linking each research goal to our findings regarding content, assessment, and pedagogy. Finally, we present our discussion and future work related to future courses and implications from this pilot study.
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