Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Discussion of Methods for Continuing your Engineering Education

Hello everyone, I just want to apologize in advance for the less researched post this week, but I won’t be able to do much writing the day of the posting due a Judo tournament.  This week I want to discuss the methods of continuing education in the engineering field.  Just off the top of my head I can think of several methods and I want to discuss the positive and negative characteristics of each.  These are the three that come to mind: formal college courses, continuing education seminars, and personal reading outside of work.

In my previous post, my opinion of formal college courses was discussed in detail so I won’t say too much about that.  To sum up the negatives, I feel like the exam –homework concept is not the best way to learn engineering.  But that being said, there are some positives I didn’t mention.  For the most part, even if the teaching methods aren’t always the best, the overall knowledge of the professors is amazing.  There is no better source for extremely technical, theoretical, or “academic” expertise.  If the goal is to really drill down and learn every minor detail of a subject or field I can’t think of a better source.

As for continuing education seminars, I see this as an in between method that applies the expertise of formal college courses through the lecture format while skipping the college course process.  The positive is that there is a live person there to explain the subject and provide examples to explain the methods and related materials provided.  The negative is that it is difficult to strike a good balance in my opinion.  If an expert tries to present too much material or can’t explain his topic well, the learning process will be hindered.   And if the material is not of interest to the person or does not have enough substance to it, the listeners won’t retain or use any of it.  Err too far from the natural balance in either direction and the seminar will start to be ineffective.

As for personal reading, this is the one method I prefer doing the most because I enjoy learning through reading in any form.  Some things I read quicker than others due to the heaviness of the material and the style of writing, but I almost always will be more preferential to reading and learning on my own.  That beings said, there are still definite positives and negatives.  The positive is that it can be done on your own.  It may seem like a minor thing compared to the other positive characteristics mentioned above; but if you really think about it, it is a simply stated yet very good positive characteristic.  How busy are we in our lives?  And what about access at any time you want?  You can get both with personal reading.  It would require more independence in the learning process, but if that can be coped with this is a great positive.  This leads us to our negative – what happens if we can’t understand the material?  The truth is that learning anything on your own will take some effort and sometimes you working on your own is not enough.  You will need some guidance and help.  And if this something you are doing purely on your own you won’t have it.  On a side note, a mentor or fellow engineer may fill this gap; but this argument is assuming that this is an unavailable resource.

So all that being said, my preference is definitely personal reading and learning.  What is your preferred method of these three and why?  Is there another method that I haven’t discussed that you prefer?  If so, what is it and why do you prefer that method?  Thank you and have a good week.


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