• Education

    Introduction

    My primary teaching goal is to build and strengthen the ties between my students and society through innovative education. It is particularly crucial in a practical engineering discipline such as industrial engineering that students are equipped with a problem-solving mindset and attitude. In this document, I describe how I have achieved my teaching goal through teaching activities and explain how I bring innovation to the classroom to support it.

    Teaching philosophy and method

    As a faculty member in an engineering discipline whose goal is to bridge the gap between scientific theories and the practical needs of society, I believe an understanding of real-world problems and development of a problem-solving mindset and attitude to be crucial for students. This is especially true for industrial engineering students, as the discipline’s origins lie not in the research laboratory but in industry. Hence, teaching students how their knowledge can contribute to industry is a key component of industrial engineering education. In this regard, I have incorporated the three following components in my classes.

    • Motivating students with real-world problems.
    • Transferring underlying fundamental theories.
    • Teaching appropriate tools for solving actual problems effectively.

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    Figure 1: Teaching steps (cycle) with industry partners

      Figure 1 illustrates the teaching steps I use in my classes, with reference to the three aforementioned components. Although the second component is emphasized in the conventional teaching paradigm, the first and third have been somewhat neglected or even ignored in traditional engineering education. With regard to the first component, in particular, considerable educational research supports the idea that students tend to participate more actively when they understand how the knowledge in question can be applied in the real world [1]. Once students are motivated and have learned fundamental theories, the third component closes the loop of the cycle by encouraging them to solve the real-life problems introduced in the motivational stage. To solve such problems, students need to use software tools designed especially for the industrial engineering field. In other words, the value of teaching software tools lies not only in the transference of software skills, but also in boosting students’ motivation and integrating the steps of problem understanding, fundamental knowledge-building, and the actual delivery of solutions to a problem. Of course, the foregoing teaching approach is not new, and many scholars agree on its effectiveness [2]. However, owing to such issues as the difficulty of acquiring real-world data, limited class time and budgets, and other administrative constraints, the approach has not been realized in the conventional classroom. Innovation is thus urgently needed in the classroom. The following sections present the ways in which I have introduced educational innovation to the classroom.

    Teaching Innovation 1 – Creating a case study class

    As a KAIST faculty member, I try to deliver industrial engineering value to today’s data-driven society. This effort resulted in the development of a class called Case Studies in Industrial and Systems Engineering (IE436), which connects the theories covered in other classes to the real-world problems of industry. The goals of the class are 1) to present real-world industrial engineering-related problems to students and 2) integrate such fundamental industrial engineering concepts as optimization, simulations, and mathematical modeling to allow students to experience integrated approaches to problem-solving. I designed the class to enable students to:

    • recognize a problem and frame it with logical assumptions;
    • identify appropriate theories and software tools to solve the problem;
    • understand the entire information value chain and perform data analyses;
    • logically present their solutions and convince the stakeholders involved; and
    • collaborate effectively with colleagues with different skill sets and working styles.

    The class consists of several cases. The most challenging element of its creation was to obtain real-life business data and develop class material. Particularly difficult was collecting real company data in the field. I contacted several companies and tried to convince them to become industry partners. As an incentive, I promised that the solution methodologies developed by students in class would be shared with them. At the time of writing, I had successfully convinced three companies to become industry partners: Woongjin Chemical Corp., Deloitte Consulting Inc., and E-Land Corp. Official memoranda of understanding have been signed with all three. I have been able to receive sufficient data and information from these companies to provide students with a better understanding of actual business situations and the ability to deal with relevant data. For example, in Spring 2013, students worked on a production planning problem for Woongjin Chemical using chemical usage data, manufacturing scheduling data, daily inventory records, customer order data, and more than 20 other datasets. On the basis of these data, they attempted to devise a way to improve the company’s production planning using linear programming, stochastic modeling, and other industrial engineering techniques. They also used such commercial software as CPLEX and SAS OR to solve complex optimization problems. One team in the class even implemented a custom simulation tool to show inventory behavior.

    I have taught three classes since 2011. Student evaluations of and feedback on the class have been significantly better than those of the department and institute averages, as shown in Figure 2 [3]. Moreover, the evaluation average increases each year. In addition, student satisfaction with the class is clearly evidenced by their strongly positive comments on the evaluation forms, as shown in the Appendix. Most students stated that they had learned a lot and would recommend the class to other students.

    More proof of the class’s effectiveness is that two of the partner companies have offered employment opportunities to students who participated in class projects with them. For example, Deloitte Consulting hired two students as interns last year, and has offered them official positions after their internships. I believe the innovation driving this case study class has had a positive influence on both the department and KAIST as a whole by delivering better education to students and creating a new form of education.

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    Figure 2: Student evaluations of Industrial and Systems Engineering Case Study (IE436) class (based on 5.0 scale)

     

    Teaching Innovation 2 – Creating the LEGO Manufacturing System (LMS) Laboratory
    Another classroom innovation is the development of the department’s LEGO® Manufacturing System (LMS) Laboratory. Unlike other engineering disciplines such as mechanical or electrical engineering, industrial engineering offers few opportunities for students to perform laboratory experiments. The goal of in-class laboratory experiments is to provide students with actual problems in a controlled environment, although creating such an environment in industrial engineering is a challenge. For instance, the supply chain management (SCM) class that I have taught since Fall 2011 deals with production scheduling and inventory management in factories. In the absence of KAIST constructing its own manufacturing facility, providing students with actual SCM decision-making experience is difficult if not impossible. To resolve the issue, I decided to create a small but operative production line using a LEGO set, and named it the KAIST LEGO Manufacturing System (LMS).

    Although the production line is built with LEGO, it imitates a serial production line with various electrical sensors and actuators. The LMS production line even has an MES to monitor production, and is executed according to a predefined rule. The LMS is used in class as follows. A team of students first operates the line, receiving random orders for specific products with specific due dates. Because the team has assumed the role of factory manager, it needs to make the following decisions.

    • The appropriate inventory level to maintain.
    • How to set up a priority rule for order processing, e.g., due date base, first-in-first-out or another rule?
    • How to evaluate bottlenecks and improve the production rate.

    I allow students to operate the factory with no prior knowledge of SCM to give them a practical understanding of SCM issues. I then cover the relevant theories of scientific management, such as optimal inventory control, mathematical optimization in scheduling, and mathematical modeling of production, and also use simulations.
    This is the first year I have tried out the LMS in the SCM class, and I have not yet received any official feedback from students. However, I have observed that students display considerable interest in learning with the LMS. Although LEGO in commonly used in other disciplines such as robotics and mechanical/electrical engineering, its use in industrial engineering as a form of production operation is new and innovative. A major Korean newspaper even took an interest in the LMS as an innovative educational approach, as shown in Figure 3 [4].
    Another benefit of the LMS is that it can be used to provide students with integrated approaches to SCM, which is an applied area of industrial e¬ngineering. Students need to identify appropriate analytical methods and software tools to solve SCM problems. As shown in Figure 3, the LMS can be used as an integrator of the multiple methods and tools commonly used in industrial engineering.

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    Figure 3: LEGO Manufacturing System article in a major newspaper and application in supply chain management class

     

    Student supervision

    The application of my teaching philosophy and innovation efforts is not limited to the classroom, but also extends to student supervision. I am an active participant in both the undergraduate research program (URP) and industry intern program at KAIST, teaching students not only knowledge but also the value of research and the discipline. My strategy as a URP advisor is to stimulate students with enjoyable research topics and inspire them to come up with their own ideas rather than simply imitating the research approaches pursued by graduate students. In 2011, research performed by a team of undergraduate students under my supervision on the URP received first place in the Best Undergraduate Project Competition at the 2011 Annual Korean Industrial Engineering Conference [5]. Another student who participated in the industry intern program under my supervision won the Student Case Competition in the 2013 INFORMS Analytics Conference for a case she developed during her internship [6].

     

    Conclusion

    In addition to presenting my teaching philosophy and innovative methods in this document, I have also described how I apply those methods in class. Since joining KAIST as a faculty member, I have actively tried to create innovations in education. Based on the student evaluations and feedback I have received, I believe that my innovative approach has exerted a positive influence on the department and KAIST. Teaching plays a central role in my career, and I believe that I have achieved a high level of teaching quality in both my classes and research supervision. I hope to offer a graduate-level class, Dynamic Programming and Control, in the near future, and firmly believe that my motivation-driven teaching philosophy will prove equally effective in this class.

     

    References

    [1] Deci, Edward L., Robert J. Vallerand, Luc G. Pelletier & Richard M. Ryan, “Motivation and Education: The Self-Determination Perspective,” Educational Psychologist, Vol. 26, Nos. 3-4, 1991, pp. 325-346.
    [2] Ames, Carole, “Classrooms: Goals, Structures, and Student Motivation,” Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 3, 1992, pp. 261-271.
    [3] KAIST Student Class Evaluation 2011, 2012, and 2013.
    [4] “KAIST students play with LEGO?” Dong-A Daily, September 6, 2013 (A23).
    [5] Annual Conference of Korean Institute of Industrial Engineering 2011, Seoul, Korea.
    [6] INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research 2013, Saint Antonio, TX, U.S.A.

     

     

    Last updated : 2014/03/17