New Course Helps ECE Transfers Achieve Success

Atlanta, GA
Jill Auerbach

Jill Auerbach, senior academic professional, teaching Transition Skills for ECE Transfer Students.

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Almost three-quarters of all freshmen students take the GT 1000 course, a first-year seminar designed to support a successful transition for new Tech students, but until this fall, there was not a similar course available for transfer students. Jill Auerbach, senior academic professional in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, changed that with the creation of the ECE 2801 course, Transition Skills for ECE Transfer Students.

 “GT 1000 students are typically 18 and leaving home for the first time,” said Auerbach. “The obstacles they face are specific to that transition. In contrast, ECE transfer students have already taken their core courses and have dealt with those challenges. Now they must overcome the learning curve associated with transferring to a top tier institution in engineering.” 

Auerbach crafted the ECE 2801 course in relation to a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant called the Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM).

With funding from the S-STEM, the Transfer Initiative for Engineering Scholars (TIES) Enrichment Program was launched. TIES supports community college transfer students majoring in computer engineering and electrical engineering through both enrichment programs and scholarship opportunities. Through her work co-directing TIES with Doug Williams, senior associate chair, Auerbach learned about the unique challenges that transfer students have coming into ECE.

ECE 2801 utilizes many of the elements that make GT 1000 successful such as peer mentors and a curriculum that includes academic success strategies, team building skills, and Georgia Tech history and traditions. In addition to these key areas, the course focuses specifically on challenges faced by transfer students and the development of strategies early on to minimize their impact.

When surveyed at the beginning of the course, most ECE transfer students indicated that difficulty of class material and quantity of classwork are among their main concerns. As a result, ECE 2801 also aims to familiarize students with the ECE curriculum, subtopics, and course planning.

Like GT 1000, some of the greatest assets offered by ECE 2801 are the student volunteers that serve as Team Leaders (or TLs). Phillip Hughes, an electrical engineering senior, transferred in as a junior and is now a TL for the class. He acknowledges that his first year at Tech would have been very different had he been offered a course like ECE 2801.

“Students who started at Tech had a leg up and knew what was expected,” said Hughes. “I spent my first year trying to catch up.”

Even as a TL, Hughes is benefitting from the course. In addition to providing new students with advice, he is learning a few things himself.

“Last week we covered concept mapping—a method to better understand how topics in a course intersect. This would have been useful to me during my first year at Tech, but I’m learning it now,” he said.

While there are GT 1000 classes designed for different subpopulations at Tech, no GT 1000 equivalent for transfer students is offered through the Center for Academic Enrichment. Nirmal Trivedi, director of the Academic Transitions Program, plans to use ECE 2801 as a model as he explores developing a Georgia Tech transfer student seminar course.

“With around 23% of our new undergraduate students coming in as transfer students each year, I think a course that speaks specifically to their concerns is a great idea,” said Trivedi. “Learning from ECE’s experience will help us shape appropriate curriculum and test assumptions we make about the transfer student population.”

If you are an ECE faculty member or student and would like to get involved in an upcoming section of ECE 2801, please contact Jill Auerbach.

Last revised August 1, 2017