Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Risk assessment

Undergraduate Students’ feedback for current semester method

Posted by: adonis49 on: November 2, 2008

Article #24, (written on June 11, 2005. Teaching at LAU Byblos university, Lebanon)

After many unsuccessful attempts to generate students’ feedback on my teaching methods and how this course might affect their perspective and behavior in approaching the remaining core courses, before graduation and in their career I decided to include two questions in the final exam that I expected would shed some insight.

The required question, which I told class two weeks ahead of the final exam that it will be part of the exam, directed the students to focus first on the diligent A and B students and then to target the C and D students in their teaching methods in case they might have to teach a course in Human Factors in engineering.

The third part was to restructure the course materials and which chapters should have to be developed further. 

Now, any logical person would expect the students to have prepared detailed answers to these questions since it is an open book and open notes exam, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any shred of evidence that any student did prepare a written answer. 

You would also expect students to be lenient in teaching this course but their reaction was even harsher.

Students feedbacks required that drop quizzes be delivered on a weekly basis after students hand in a chapter summary, that case studies be debated in class, a few lab workshops and many more assignments. 

A student suggested attaching a CD copy of the course material so that they would not have to carry books.

They suggested that summarizing chapters as assignments might force students to read, a suggestion that I did try in a previous semester but was discouraged because the endeavor ended up with students heavily copying from one another, and I having to carry home heavy loads and wasting more time flipping through useless pages.

I think that frequent and consistent drop quizzes are an excellent tool although it will cost me dear time for grading and from teaching time.

Actually, I didn’t expect even the most diligent students to read the whole course materials. 

I provided hints and suggestions on the best way to assimilate the material that would help them navigate through the content of the course. 

I encouraged them to browse through the whole course contents and focus on the graphs, tables and figures and try to comprehend the subject matters by analyzing and using them as facts in their analyses.

May be you would have a better assessment of the students’ harsh requirements, if given the opportunity to teaching, after I expose the load they shouldered throughout the semester.

Besides the mid-term and final exams, each student had to submit two assignments, two lengthy lab projects; three extensive take home exams that covered most of the chapters, three quizzes for 45 minutes each, two presentations to class of graphs, tables and figures, reading revised articles that I assigned them and a take home exam on a research paper concerning hand tool design. 

Not a single student was exposed to a research paper before, and it was a pretty tough awakening for the students planning for higher education. (Actually, the administration promised to sign in for peered-reviewed research articles from the Human Factors society, but never delivered)

I think that the students lacked an appreciation of the time allocated to managing a class that prohibits many well meaning teaching plans. 

In many instances, I had to read in class the assignments and take home exams questions and provide directions because I noticed that the students tended to dig these assignments up from their folders before a long lapse of time. 

The time allocated for students’ presentation takes up more than a third of the teaching hour and fielding questions takes the best of the second third 

There are no lab credit hours for this course and still students believe that they can set aside free hours for doing lab projects necessary for assimilating this course.

The alternatives restructuring of the course materials did not differ much from mine.

The optional question for bonus points asked the students to select 3 topics of interest to them, provide catchy titles and explain in two paragraphs for each topic how it might apply and improve their careers. 

Although I have assigned to the students articles that I wrote as an introduction to the course materials only one student offered complete sentence titles; the rest just named the topics. 

It appears that their preferred topics were: risk and errors, designing interfaces, work environmental factors that might affect performance, human-computer interface and hand tool design. 

A couple students interested in medical technology engineering wanted more emphasis on the biology aspects of the body structure. 

Only one student mentioned the cognitive preference for this single course.

Many students signed petitions to re-include the elective course of “risk assessment and occupational safety and health” for the fall semester but the administration refused to consider these petitions two years in a row.

Why?  I still did not receive any feedback either written or verbal. 

It appears that the meaning of asking students to deliver petitions for any demand is less a matter for taking their cases seriously but to erect roadblocks and present a procedural façade to secure grants as a professional institution.

Actually, students’ apathy toward the effectiveness of the student council is strikingly telling.

I had to harangue my class to grab and snatch their rights by persistent pressure on the administration for the demands in their petitions.

Article #19, April 16, 2005

“Could one general course in Human Factors make a dent in a career behavior?”

Allow me to state the contents of the four parts of my course materials.

Part one contains an overview, human systems design and modeling, designing for people, human error, accidents and safety, communicating the Human Factors message, human limits and differences, sensing capabilities and limitations, the body and performance, body size, muscular work, nervous control of movements and cognitive processing and performance.

Part two comprises the chapters on improving work efficiency, heavy work, handling loads, lifting, and design of workstations, hand tool design and biomechanics.

Part three is about physical and social environments, noise, vibration, ergonomic principle of lighting, temperature regulation, indoor climate, occupational heat stress, occupational stress, inspection, shift work and the age factor.

Part four covers Human Factors in system design, human-machine system, display and controls, code design, data collection, speech communication, product liability engineering, the engineer as an expert witness, Human Factors and the automobile and human-computer interface.  That’s it!

Throughout the semester I hammer on the main criteria of what Human Factors engineers should constantly consider in their design: mainly, to first target the end user, ease of use of the interface, error free design, acceptability, fitting the capabilities of users, limited training needs, comfortable workstation for extended duration of working habits, safety usage, safety behavior and healthy environment.

This course is not about objects, characteristics of materials, quantity produced or speed in manufacturing processes.

This course is focused on the end users because most systems are designed for target users and operated by end users.

Throughout the semester the perennial question happens to squeeze itself among the exams’ questions: “How would you like to define the Human Factors discipline; what are the most important practical sections that could readily be applied in your engineering discipline and how your own understanding of this subject can alter your behavior when you secure a job?”

Mind you that I am not asking them what the Human Factors professionals would like them to define this discipline but what they have actually assimilated and might make the appropriate information or methods an intrinsic part of their knowledge.

There was an optional course offered, but unfortunately not on a consistent basis, which is called “Risk assessment and Occupational Safety and Health”.

This course covered the safety regulations, laws and standards that private workplaces and institutions have to follow and abide by them.

I used this course as an excellent medium to set the tone and objectives of the Human Factors discipline but the School of Architecture and Engineering revised their optional courses offering to substitute Reliability Engineering instead. 

In the “risk assessments and occupational safety” course I introduced such topics of human errors in operational systems and the corresponding interfaces, the risks and consequences of committing these errors and the remedies in redesign, management and organizational direct concerns and involvement in reducing injuries and unsafe behavior in the workplaces and procedures were very appropriate as an introduction to the purposes of Human Factors course.

These topics allowed me to focus on other issues in the one Human Factors course and substantially reduced the course materials.

But this important optional course was alas dropped from the curriculum but not yet officially.

Lebanon in 2000: Introspection,  (continue #52)

 

I arrived on Christmas of 2000 at night to the airport; the whole family was there to meet me with the exception of Joanna and dad.  Adrea was about 6 of age and she sprinted and jumped hugged me; she was missing a front tooth.  We loaded the large Dodge van and Elie was driving. 

I realized that the Capital Beirut and the district of Metn were almost a metropolis since buildings were uninterrupted for 17 kilometers on both side of the main road.  There were relatives waiting at home. 

Dad looked old.  He asked me how much I managed to save.  The number darkened his face even more and he had taken a decision on the spot. The next morning dad put our apartment in Beirut for sale.  I think that he was postponing that decision for a while hoping for a miracle.  We received an offer within a week from a family renting in the building opposite to ours. Our apartment was vast but the condition of the entire building was in disintegration and no one was in charge of the upkeep; there was all kinds of electrical wires and cable connected in the main entrance hall, and there was no parking lot for the building, and the street was lined with parked cars…

We could have sold it for a better price but dad was totally broke.  We received cash for the sale and I played body-guard to dad all the way home.  We re-counted the cash and I found out that we received over a million LL ($750) in surplus. The buyer called up and wondered if he paid more than he should.  We were affirmative and he drove to our home and got his money back.

I didn’t see Joanna for a whole day; she had fallen and injured her knees sprinting at school and wanted to show up in a better shape. William had started his first year at the Lebanese University in architecture.  Chelsea was barely 6 months old and didn’t cry when I held her up. 

The next night, mother had prepared a big supper and invited all the relatives, around twenty, and we all laughed and had a great time. I think that was the last mass invitation of a long tradition that is fading away.

I spent a year confused, frustrated, jobless, and with no car to drive around; I think that I was scared to drive in Lebanon and I needed that long to get familiar with my new environment.  I could not agree with the state of Lebanon under construction; it was mainly dust, dust, and more dust and traffic jam and honking and dangerous driving. 

My friend Ramez (a friend from my first visit to the University of Oklahoma at Norman) managed to send my CV to the Lebanese American University in Jubeil (Byblos) and I was hired to teach a course in Human Factors.  The industrial engineering curriculum listed a single course in Human Factors as required, and it was taught by a mechanical engineering professor who was glad to be relieved of this burden. 

That was my first official teaching experience and I prepared for a whole semester using old versions because there were no books or publications on Human Factors at the university library or in any other university libraries.

The first course was “Risk Assessment and Occupational Safety” offered in the fall, and the other course on Human Factors was reserved for the spring semester. Thus, I was driving twice a week to teach an hour, for a trip that lasted an hour drive, for  a total pay of $3,000 a semester.  I had asked the department of Industrial Engineering to subscribe to the Human Factors Journal so that I might update my course and initiate students to read published articles, but nothing materialized for the next three years.

I personally applied for the Journal at the library and they claimed that my application went through but I could find nothing on the shelves for the duration of my teaching there

In the third year, the engineering department decided to cancel the “Risk Assessment” course without asking my opinion, they never did ask for my opinion or even answered any of my letters, emails, or suggestions. The department substituted this course with “Reliability in Engineering” on the ground that it is more in line of engineering. 

Reliability is basically a few probability functions more applicable to actuarial or for insurance business. In industry, reliability is applied to test the life span of a light bulb for example.  I could teach this course because I have taken all the advanced probability courses and “reliability” too, but I was not asked to teach it on the implicit basis that I am “no real engineer”, I guess.  I thus ended up teaching a single course in spring for $3,000 per year.  No other university in Lebanon taught Human Factors related courses.

The worst part was that all the eligible students wanted to enroll in my course and I had to deal with over 60 students.  The department refused to open two sections in order to save a lousy additional $3,000.  Then, the various engineering departments, excepting Industrial engineering because Human Factors is required, decided not to allow their students to taking this course on the ground that they opened other more appropriate courses.

The Industrial department decided to appoint a woman as chairperson, though her PhD is not officially in industrial engineering.  She hired a full-time teacher of her acquaintances.  She did not like me because once, at the end of year dinner, I expressed my surprise that her husband is young; she retorted “Did you think that I was that old?”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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