Online learning suits self-starters and people who really want to learn, but it can be a challenge because students need to have discipline and self-motivation in establishing effective learning and study methods. As we launch into a new financial year and, for many, a new academic semester, it is time to review, revisit, and refine your approach to learning.
When looking for methods of learning to improve your retention of new concepts and academic results, it is important to consider tried and tested methodologies alongside new ideas. Gamifying studies, decluttering a work/study space, creating mental pathways for recall, and trying out new time management methods are effective strategies in ensuring your academic success.
Learning How to Learn
Barbara Oakley is an American Professor of Engineering at Oakland University and McMaster University who delivers courses providing practical advice on tackling daunting subjects and developing learning practices related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She is most famously known for the “Learning How to Learn” course that she co-created with Terrence Sejnowski and the University of California, San Diego. Over 1.8 million students have taken this course on Coursera. Alongside her book, ‘A Mind for Numbers,’ it outlines three steps (or tips) to develop higher learning.
Her first tip is Create Mental Scaffolds: Develop mental imagery or analogies when tackling concepts in your study material.
“Sometimes, the analogy or metaphor is rough — such as the idea that blood vessels are like highways, or that a nuclear reaction is like falling dominoes. But these simple analogies and metaphors can be powerful tools to help you use an existing neural structure as a scaffold to help you more rapidly build a new, more complex neural structure.”
Barbara’s second tip is to process information with conscious thinking and unconscious processing to expedite the learning process. This is an interval training approach that involves intense, short periods of focus, followed by relaxing. The method is similar to the Pomodoro method featured in this article.
Her final step includes retelling what you have learned to friends or family (or simply reciting it to yourself) to see if you can explain it enthusiastically and in an informed manner.
Effective time planning
Something else that can keep the mind sharper is a healthy balance of work, play, and relaxation. Focusing on the task that is at hand and getting a good amount of rest could all be efficiently timed and managed with something as simple as a kitchen timer. The Pomodoro Technique has long been touted as an effective studying technique. The idea came about in the late 80s and advocates for interval-led task completion, all made possible with a tomato (pomodoro) kitchen timer. Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the renowned time-management ideology, outlines how the technique works:
The idea, Cirillo asserts, is to work smarter and not harder. Cirillo says over 2 million people have already used the Pomodoro Technique to transform their lives, making them more productive, more focused, and even smarter.
Gamify your studies and form habits while doing it
Both children and adults are receptive to virtual games. Gamifying your studies turns something that could be perceived as boring into an exciting challenge. Find a way to make your studies interactive and compelling, such as making a conquerable game with levels or a leaderboard. This could further motivate you to complete units in a module or complete a daunting task.
Installing flashcard apps and other memory-building apps could further strengthen your retention and comprehension of information. The packaging of complex information packaged in a way that a visual learner can understand could help a student grasp the information in a more nuanced way. Gamification is becoming a favored way of learning a new language, of learning how to invest, and perhaps could turn into a way to help engineering students prepare for assessments.
Some online commenters on social media site Reddit say that they gamify certain aspects of their life through utilizing an app named Habitica. The app’s tagline is ‘Gamify your life.’ The app purports to motivate you to finish tasks and form productive habits in both work and home life. Here is a video of how it all works:
A clean, functional learning space
An uncluttered studying space is vital. A dedicated space that serves as a comfortable space where you can learn new concepts and serenely take in information is important. Experts report that an uncluttered space is important for mental wellbeing and can help with retaining information. Cluttered space, cluttered mind, is the basic concept. Engineers are sometimes the worst offenders when it comes to clutter. If you have no uncluttered spaces, it might be time to do some spring cleaning and declutter for peace of mind.
Psychologist Alice Boyes Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today, explains in 6 points why a decluttered space is optimal for students:
Changing the way you learn and developing new ways of processing and remembering information could further prepare you for the unexpected. Learning new concepts could impact your work in a positive way. New study methods and personal development methodologies have been growing legs during the pandemic, which may continue in certain regions. Thus, teaching an old dog new study tricks could help during this uncertain period. Gamifying studying methods, decluttering your work/study space, and learning how to manage time more efficiently are just some of the ways students are carrying on as uncertainty reigns.
Boyes, Alice. “6 Benefits of an Uncluttered Space.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 12 Feb. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/in-practice/201802/6-benefits-uncluttered-space.
“The Pomodoro Technique® - Proudly Developed by Francesco Cirillo: Cirillo Consulting GmbH.” Cirillo Company, francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many education institutions to take entire campuses online almost overnight. Despite a massive growth and adoption in online education technology in recent years, many institutions struggled to translate their on-campus delivery methodology to an online environment and, in particular, were unprepared in how to ensure academic integrity online. This has resulted in a scramble to adopt exam proctoring and remote invigilation software, providing the Engineering Institute of Technology a competitive advantage and new business stream.
Over the last three years, the Engineering Institute of Technology has perfected an online exam proctoring, and remote invigilation software to autonomously monitor students while they undertake an exam. This system is named IRIS Invigilation.
IRIS was developed by the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) in conjunction with Curtin University in Western Australia. EIT is now the sole education partner of IRIS internationally and utilizes the software to invigilate online assessments and exams of 1600 students from over 140 countries. IRIS' usefulness has further been realized as the pandemic has produced new challenges for institutions that need to ensure the reliability and validity of student assessments.
"My vision for IRIS was to have an easy-to-run, very affordable invigilation package for our (and other colleges') students, and indeed, staff, to easily use at far-flung locations to demonstrate their commitment to a high level of integrity in their work," said Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institute of Technology, Dr. Steve Mackay. The fully developed software seemingly made it to market just in time for the unexpected circumstance that cropped up this year.
"When coronavirus hit in early 2020, educational institutes who had been avoiding online education were forced into action. If this transition wasn't stressful enough, with all the technical challenges of schools, colleges, and universities going online, then they had to find a solution for online assessments and potential cheating," says Sarah Montgomery, Project Manager at EIT who is overseeing IRIS.
"As more institutes go online, we saw an opportunity to expand IRIS to other institutions who would benefit from remote proctoring," she continued. "IRIS has been warmly received with many potential customers valuing the dedicated IRIS technical team and evidence of EIT's own success in using the platform."
Deputy Dean at the Engineering Institute of Technology, Indumathi V, says she has seen the software in action and finds it incredibly helpful as an academic monitoring exams.
"I have seen IRIS in action, and it's fantastic! It empowers me as an academic to trust on the reliability, authenticity, and integrity of the assessments completed by my students. It works by recording audio, video, and computer screen activity for the duration of an exam/assessment. Staff don't have to go through every recording to verify assessment integrity or authenticity. Machine learning algorithms in the background do the work and flag potential academic dishonesty, which is neatly displayed on a dashboard. It's a well-designed, user-friendly system that integrates effortlessly into most computer systems."
The software had already racked up some accolades before the COVID-19 pandemic began threatening education institutions around the world. In 2019, the IRIS team secured the position of ON Accelerate Finalist, which is Australia's national innovation accelerator program, powered by CSIRO. In the same year, IRIS was a Highly Commended Education Finalist (Best Project in the Education category) at the prestigious ITnews Benchmark Awards.
How it works
IRIS records video of a student's face throughout their online exam. The program tracks head and eye movement, records the audio signal from a student's computer, and captures webcam audio too. The program takes successive screenshots of what the student sees during the exam, and what is displayed on their computer screen.
An extra security measure IRIS incorporates is facial markers. The markers are identified and tracked, categorizing and distinguishing innocent behaviors and cross-referencing them with dishonest behaviors.
IRIS departs from traditional methods of real-time online invigilation, which is expensive and time-consuming for educators and assessors. Upon the completion of an assessment, IRIS autonomously targets or 'flags' videos that need evaluation to prioritize students who require further investigation and keep staff workloads manageable. Educators can then review this data at a time that is convenient to help ensure student identity verification and assessment integrity.
Educators set the system on their online assessments through their own defined Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle. When a student clicks on the assessment, IRIS automatically pops up and asks the student to agree to being invigilated. Once they complete and submit their assessment, IRIS shuts down and provides the educators with all of the data gathered during the assessment.
"With the increase in the uptake of online learning and assessment due to COVID19, more and more educational institutions are grappling with assessment authenticity and integrity," says Indumathi.
"Autonomous proctoring provides an excellent solution to these problems, improving the quality assurance and reliability of online education.
"The future of proctoring is very bright with artificial intelligence (AI), big data (data forensics), data security, and user-centric developments taking center stage. These enhanced capabilities provide many opportunities for improvements to existing technology."
Lightweight, easily deployable, global
Students from all over the world are using IRIS. At the Engineering Institute of Technology, we have three years' experience in invigilating all online exams. Online exam proctoring cements the legitimacy of online education, which institutions have had to implement during the global pandemic. IRIS Invigilation provides a lightweight, easily deployable, and instantly accessible system for monitoring students while they complete online assessments.
The IRIS technology is secure, easy to use, and requires very little in the way of software infrastructure due to its efficient browser-based design. All the student needs is a Microsoft-compatible or Mac computer with webcam, microphone, and speakers connected. Most impressively, IRIS has a Google Chrome extension and Microsoft Edge plugin that can be added straight to the browser.
Sarah explains, "Students need to use the Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browser because IRIS uses these browser plugins (extensions) to access your webcam, microphone, and screen. IRIS has been developed in this way so that you do not have to download bulky or costly software packages onto your computer.
Recently, IRIS was added to the Microsoft Edge store, so now Chinese students can utilize the software. This opens up a huge market for international students as previously IRIS did not work in China."
The IRIS team has successfully signed up several large institutes that deal with thousands of international and local university and college students.
"We have a client who specializes in English testing and another in the trade skills industry. One of our larger clients completed their university exams this week and clocked up over 15,000 assessment hours. IRIS is capable of handling huge amounts of data, and IRIS successfully invigilated and uploaded the recordings of over 3,000 students in the exam period," said Sarah.
"After significant financial investment in research over the past five years and tens of thousands of hours of testing, I have been gratified to see IRIS develop into an ultra-useful invigilation (proctoring) package," Steve remarked.
"IRIS has been adopted by many of the largest colleges in the world, and we are pouring more resources into developing additional AI capabilities as well as analytical support to provide feedback to the instructors on improving their courses with real evidence-based intelligence."
With the potentially chaotic reclosure of educational facilities due to a second wave of the coronavirus, investing in an online remote examination proctoring software solution is a good step in ensuring academic integrity online.
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Lilongeni Gurney Geiseb is a Process Automation and Instrumentation Specialist. He has a pair of qualifications from the Engineering Institute of Technology and is currently on track to acquiring his third. He has worked in the diamond mining industry and is now positioning himself in the ever-expanding automation sector. The opportunity for development through EIT, whilst maintaining full-time employment, has helped Lilongeni succeed in his career. He has seen many promotions within each sector he has contributed to - a testament to the unique methodology EIT employs to get engineering professionals educated, working, and fully developed in industry. From young apprentice to reliable technician, to capable automation specialist, Lilongeni’s journey is one of hard work and dedication.
“The courses I have completed and the ongoing course from EIT have immensely helped me perform in my roles over the years. The courses have made me understand the importance of professionalism, what it entails, and what is required to sustain it. Especially the application of international standards,” he says.
Completing High School in 2007 at the Academic Secondary School in Windhoek, Namibia, Lilongeni embarked on finding a profession that would give him real job satisfaction. He soon discovered he had an affinity for engineering, recognizing that good engineering projects could improve the lives of humans and the environments they live and work in.
By 2008, he had received a chance to fulfil an apprenticeship, which was sponsored by Namdeb Diamond Corporation. He commenced his Control and Instrumentation Apprenticeship at De Beers Lesedi Centre for Human Capital in Kimberley, South Africa.
After his apprenticeship ended in 2011, the following year saw him enrol, and work towards completing his 52727WA - Advanced Diploma in Electrical and Instrumentation (E&I) Engineering in Mining through the Engineering Institute of Technology. He initially was under the impression that he should abandon his plans to go straight into a working environment and opt to pursue academics first.
“Upon completion of the training program, I was employed as a Control & Instrumentation Mechanician at NAMDEB. 4 months into the role, I realized that I was punching below my weight. I approached my Chief Technical Officer about my wishes to leave work for further studies. After that discussion, he introduced me to EIT,” Geiseb recalled.
After completing his Advanced Diploma, and getting the qualification recognized through the necessary qualifications bodies in Namibia, he was promoted from C&I Mechanician to C&I Technician at work. Determined not to slow down in the development of his engineering career, Lilongeni registered for the 52708WA - Advanced Diploma in Industrial Automation in 2016.
Soon enough, he was promoted again to Senior C&I Technician, which saw him take on a host of responsibilities inside the company. He was supervising subordinates and doing complex technical oversight. He also had to take on leadership roles, leading a team of 3 technicians and 6 artisans. Together, they were all working on the various diamond-bearing ore processing plants and utilities in the Southern Coastal mines - the largest operation at Namdeb.
Organizational changes at Namdeb eventually saw Lilongeni switching roles, and providing new challenges for his set of skills. He was looking to still provide value in all the work that he did for them. However, he saw that some of the organizational challenges produced by the reorganization of the company required some proficiencies he still needed to refine. He thus enrolled for an Advanced Diploma in Management and Research Methodology. The electives in that course were: Financial Management, Public Sector Management and Human Resources Development.
In 2018, an opportunity arose for Lilongeni to work at Dundee Precious Metals in Tsumeb, Namibia. This is where he began working as a Process Automation and Instrumentation specialist. His work includes the optimisation of the plant operations relating to throughput, quality and reliability - whilst maintaining a safe environment. He tackles the technical workings of the Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) at the plant as well. To master these systems, Lilongeni further added to his arsenal of skills.
“In January 2019, I enrolled for the BSc in Industrial Automation at the Engineering Institute of Technology. The course was directly in line with my career path. My aim in studying automation is to bring about change and exert influence in the world. To bring about change, one needs to be deemed competent. There isn’t a better competence than being a Registered Engineering Professional with Engineers Australia.”
The age of digitalisation has firmly been established, and is ongoing, Geiseb says. He says the most fascinating development in the industry is the arrival of artificial intelligence (AI). Thus, he is currently working through the Bachelor of Science (Industrial Automation) with EIT. Even though Lilongeni is still studying with EIT, he has seen the fruits of his labour after earning two qualifications prior.
“Life after EIT has been awesome, fulfilling and proving to be full of endless opportunities. As an individual, I have grown into a profession that values development. My quality of life has improved significantly due to the continuous growth and promotions,” he concluded.
Denis Tichagwa has gone from a young boy in 1980s Zimbabwe crafting wire toy cars, to working in a variety of roles ranging from mining to law enforcement. Equipped with a natural ability and fascination for STEM, Denis commenced his career in mining intending to progress to a career in engineering. However, an economic downturn forced him to transition to law enforcement. Despite setbacks, when the opportunity presented itself in 2018, Denis was determined to refocus his career in engineering and subsequently completed EIT’s Advanced Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering online. Now working with Madison Square Holdings in South Africa, Denis has been able to pursue his passion for civil engineering and construction and is well on his way to achieving his lifelong professional goals through commencing EIT’s Bachelor of Science (Civil and Structural Engineering).
At Madison Square Holdings in South Africa, Denis’s daily responsibilities include administration, health and safety checks, maintaining a drawings repository, and checking that all works done by subcontractors are according to specifications. For Denis, civil and structural engineering is all about leaving a mark for all society to see, and improve quality of life.
“In engineering, I can gain respect, not only from the entities I work for but from civil society too. They are the people for whom we dedicate our ingenuity and we build our structures for. It is beneficial to them when we do our job, and it can change the landscape for generations to come,” Tichagwa said. But a role in construction is just one of the many roles Denis has had over the years.
Where it all started
Denis’ academic excellence was recognized in the seventh grade in the countryside in Zimbabwe. In a class of 400 students, he ranked second academically. Secondary schools, noting his achievements, offered him space in their schools. However, due to financial constraints, he settled for a state school.
“Determined to alter my situation, and that of my family, I studied very hard and earned respect from my educators. I was fascinated by maths, science and technical graphics,” Denis explained. “Each time we went to science lessons where we would perform practicals, we would watch our teacher doing very distinct tests which fascinated me. In the design class, we would grab our rather heavy drawing boards and get to work on our designs - much to the pleasure of our educator.”
Equipped with a passion for STEM, Denis emerged from high school and went straight into work. He worked at the local Vubachikwe Mine for four years, gaining crucial work experience. He learned first-hand how every facet of the mine operates and became accustomed to how all the processes worked in tandem.
Denis was expecting to continue his education in the mining industry, as the mining company had promised their workers that they would get subsidized education at the Zimbabwe School of Mines - a prestigious mining school widely celebrated in Africa. However, it was not to be. An economic crisis in the country in 2002 forced the mine to abandon the program and leave the students without a chance to study at the institution.
A new hope
“Undeterred I moved on and joined the police where I had a 5-year stint. There, I learned how the law operates. During these 5 years in the police, I enrolled with Harare Polytechnic College where my interest was to do with plumbing. Unfortunately, I did not finish, and I decided to move to South Africa,” Denis recalls.
Denis then, with a determined spirit to achieve, enrolled at the University of South Africa (UNISA) for a diploma in electrical engineering. After earning his diploma at UNISA, he continued looking for academic opportunities, even internationally, to augment the skills he developed working in engineering roles.
He subsequently came across the Engineering Institute of Technology. He learned that he could work towards getting an Australian qualification with global recognition that he could earn online whilst still working in South Africa. After weighing his options, on the many courses EIT provides, he chose the 52724WA - Advanced Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering. He began charting a path toward an engineering career in a whole new direction.
A path toward engineering greatness
About his time at EIT, Dennis remarked: “Life at EIT was exceptional. I will forever be grateful to EIT for enlightening me in as far as engineering is concerned. My level of understanding in not only the construction field but the engineering domain in general has greatly improved. I am now rearing to go even further with my Bachelor of Science in Engineering with EIT and this time around, everything will be set.”
Denis now works for a construction company in Cape Town and has been doing so since 2012. He notes that the construction industry is rapidly evolving due to new technologies and the ‘latest developments in machines’ that are speeding up construction processes. Crews are now finishing projects faster than they ever were in the past.
After fulfilling many different roles in his employment history, and now looking forward to broadening his skill set with more qualifications, Denis says he would also love to run his own engineering company one day. At EIT, we encourage our students to be entrepreneurial and improve their society through engineering. We are thrilled to have Denis as an alumnus of our institute and we are confident that he will achieve whatever he sets his mind to.
How do engineers move something as heavy as decommissioned offshore oil rigs? How about moving two at the same time? Oil and gas rigs can weigh up to 50,000 tons, far outweighing what tugboats are capable of moving. Transporting monumental cargo out at sea is complex work that requires complex vessels to do the heavy-lifting. The engineering solution lies in semi-submersible ships. A marvel of engineering, semi-submersible ships go about solving the conundrum of heavy cargo transportation amid battling the elements and the unpredictability of the ocean. Engineers can appreciate the incredible engineering that goes into these vital players in the marine engineering world.
A company formed in 2014 named GPO specializes in Semi-Submersible Heavy Lift Vessels. The vessels have been described as part-cargo ship and part-submarine. One of the four submersibles they have engineered is named the Amethyst. These kind of ships help with the transportation of:
How a semi-submersible works
The Amethyst, and its twenty-six-man crew, when dispatched to load heavy cargo, have to first consult the meteorologists to determine if the weather will be conducive to heavy cargo lift. Once the crew is happy, they embark on their journey, battling winds out at sea on their way to pick up their target.
Once the ship reaches its destination, the semi-submersible performs the operation that gives it its name. The vessel is partially sunk into the ocean.
The Amethyst is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. The entire ship’s hull, at multiple levels, is lined with ballast tanks. The hull is split into 76 ballast tanks, distributed in three layers within the ship. These tanks take sea water in and weigh the ship down, submerging it in the water. 160,000 cubic yards (49 Olympic swimming pools) of water is pumped into the hull, in a very precisely engineered way to prevent the capsizing of the ship. At this point, the ship is at serious risk of sinking. Two towers at the stern of the ship, with empty ballast tanks, help keep the vessel afloat. Each tower holds ballast tanks that weigh 3,370 tons. Equally as important is the bow section that keeps the ship horizontal and not tipping.
Heavy lifting, heavy power
Loading the cargo onto the deck is the next part in the operation. The key to submersibles is the flatness of the deck that takes on the incredible weight of its cargo. The Amethyst's deck is six hundred feet long and one hundred eighty feet wide. The thickness of the steel, whilst some might think needs to be majorly thick to support immense weight, is actually the opposite. They are in fact super-strong, ultra-flat decks. The first deck is, in fact, only one inch thick. Underneath the first deck, however, lies a second deck with steel in the shape of I-beams. The force of the cargo the ship is lifting pushes down on the thinner top deck, with the second latticed I-beam deck absorbing the rest of the weight.
The cargo load needs to be balanced perfectly to ensure that the deck does not cripple underneath the immense weight of whatever is being transported. For something as big as an oil rig, three tugboats need to pull and position the rig over the sunken submersible ship. To lift the semi-submersible ship back up out of the water, with the cargo carefully balanced, the ship has to eject the water from its flooded ballast tanks back into the ocean. Pumps with high-speed impeller blades use centrifugal force to eject the water from the ballast tanks.The pumps can fully empty in 7 hours. Before that, however, engineers have to ensure the final position of the cargo they are transporting, and have to be millimeter accurate, otherwise the semi-submersible will be damaged. Once the semi-submersible is up out of the water, the ship can journey onwards.
The Amethyst has an incredibly powerful propulsion system. Diesel is the fuel source of choice. Each engine weighs 132 tonnes. Each of the four Diesel engines push out an impressive 9,600 horsepower. The ship can do one full round-world trip with full tanks.
The engines untypically reside under the bridge and in the bow - the only place where they could go in a vessel that partially sinks. The engines’ power feeds into electric generators that push electricity through cables to electric motors at the back of the ship and, in turn, powers the propellers. The 18-feet tall propellers are specifically designed to efficiently cut through water. The high-tech propellers can also reverse course immediately to bring the mammoth ship to a halt in only 500 yards of stopping distance.
Moving extremely heavy cargo out at sea was once an engineering challenge. The arrival of the semi-submersible to maneuver below heavy floating cargo and move it, was an engineering solution. The GPO Amethyst as seen above is capable of moving two decommissioned oil rigs each weighing north of 13,000 tons. What was once impossible, has now become possible, thanks to engineering. Encouragingly, instead of leaving decommissioned oil rigs out at sea, an engineering solution can ensure they are returned onshore and be disposed of in the right ways.
“Fleet.” GPO Heavylift, www.gpo-heavylift.com/fleet/.
“Watch Superstructures Engineering Marvels Season 1 Episode 2 on Disney Hotstar VIP.” Disney Hotstar, www.hotstar.com/in/tv/superstructures-engineering-marvels/s-2203/ultimate-cargo-ship/1000237821.,