What do engineering employers expect from universities in preparing students for the workplace? Firstly it is to turn out students who have a strong grounding in engineering: secondly, to educate them in problem solving. The graduate engineer is a generalist and only becomes a specialist, in designing a turbine blade or sonar, as their career develops with an employer.
To get there, students need to learn how to search and evaluate information critically and produce research that can be validated. This means using vetted material so that it can be referenced with the right citations. These are all the things a practising engineer has to do before being allowed to sign off on a job.
With the internet creating an explosion of freely available data, finding validated data is more challenging. Also problematic is breaking an ingrained habit to turn to Google or Wikipedia where much of the data is unreferenced. Even if an apparently reliable source is found, payment is often required before you can see if the research is worth the investment.
With this in mind Knovel was founded by an engineer, frustrated by this process. It allows you to access instantly thousands of papers from professional societies and over 100 respected publishers. Its interactive tools mean you can manipulate data by clicking on graphs and equations and modify them to suit your work. The information can then be shared across classes, or across engineering teams around the world.
Universities are keen on online tools like Knovel because students solve problems in the way in which they will need to do once they enter the workplace and is a method of learning suited to the internet generation. Over 30 UK Engineering Departments, including Imperial College, UCL, Southampton and UWE provide Knovel. A focus on group work to reflect the workplace and enhance graduate employability led Queen Mary, University of London, to acquire it.
Half of Knovel's customer base is academic and half in industry with users including Rolls-Royce, Selex Galileo, Siemens, BAE Systems, Arup and BP. To support its conversion course for engineers recruited from adjacent sectors, such as Aerospace and Defence, Aberdeen based Subsea 7 uses Knovel to get engineers up to speed on subsea and offshore engineering.
Professional societies and Research Organisations, such as TWI, the The Energy Institute, the IET, IMechE, IChemE and RSC, offer Knovel as a members' benefit as online tools can function at different levels satisfying educational and professional development demands.
Andy Brown - Director of Corporate Sales, Knovel EMEA