The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at American University of Sharjah (AUS), part of the university’s College of Engineering (CEN), has been using its in-house expertise to create student-focused, state-of-the-art digital solutions. The solutions form part of the college’s commitment to providing a world-class student experience, helping students to stay engaged in their studies and able to perform at their best academically.
Over the past two years, CSE has created five new digital systems, led by Dr. Fadi Aloul, Professor and Head of the Department, and developed by CSE instructors and students. All systems have been designed to enhance the experience of students by providing more convenient, responsive and intuitive services. The new systems include the Advising System, Wish List System, Waiting List System, General Education Requirement (GER) Course Availability System, and Class Attendance System.
With CSE students and faculty now using all five of the systems successfully, some of the solutions are now being utilized at a college-wide level. The Advising System allows all engineering students to see which courses are available for them to enroll in, and which courses are full—all through a highly engaging and dynamic interface. The Wish List System is also designed to directly benefit students, allowing them to identify which electives they most want to take, before schedules are set. This means elective offerings are matched to student interests, and enables a higher percentage of students to gain a place in an elective of their first preference.
The Class Attendance System has been similarly successful, with the second version of the system launched in Spring 2019, just months after the first version was implemented. The Class Attendance System has been designed for easy use by both students and faculty. To use the system, a student downloads an iOS/Android mobile application, which they then use to scan a barcode to confirm their attendance in a specific class. After the barcode is successfully scanned, the instructor is informed of the attendance, with the whole process taking less than 10 seconds. This frees up important class time, allowing faculty and students to spend more time teaching and learning, and less time on administration. The system also acts as an important reminder for students, who receive an automated message when they have missed between 10 and 15 percent of their classes. To date, the feedback from both faculty and students regarding the Class Attendance System has been very positive, with the adoption of the system throughout the whole of the CSE department likely within the coming months.
Dr. Aloul says of the success of the new systems:
“It is our job as computer scientists and engineers to be constantly looking for ways in which we can exploit digital technologies to the benefits of users. We need to show our students how to be innovative, and creating new and better ways of doing what we do on a daily basis is a fantastic example of innovation. Creating new digital systems that directly assist our faculty and students is very rewarding, and we hope to keep on finessing these systems—and creating even more new systems—so that teaching and learning in CEN (and perhaps across AUS more broadly) is more rewarding, enjoyable and ultimately successful.”
The college is widely considered as one of the region’s leading engineering institutions, focusing on providing students with an experience that readies them for success beyond the classroom. Students are taught to apply theory in real-life scenarios, and adapt their knowledge to solve problems in the workplace. Student involvement in the creation of the college’s new systems is just one example of how students are encouraged to practice their new-found skills and knowledge. As 2017 Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering graduate Asiel Abedraboh says of his AUS experience:
“Teaching students to meet expectations and deadlines in such professional academic environment is what makes AUS different from other universities. In fact, AUS prepares students for a demanding career life where time management is key.”
In 2018, AUS announced a new research agenda, and as a result, four new science and engineering-based research institutes have been established, offering much opportunity for undergraduate students to be involved in hands-on projects that allow them to practice new found skills and knowledge. These institutes and centers will allow students access to research addressing critical global issues in health sciences, materials science, marine sciences and city planning, and to explore the effects of climate change on the environment. Involvement in research of this caliber provides a unique learning for the university’s students, and is valuable experience for students seeking employment upon graduation.
For those interested in learning more about the programs offered through the AUS College of Engineering, and the experience of AUS students, please visit www.aus.edu/cen.