Considerations for Developing an Engaging Management Curriculum for Undergraduate Engineering Students During COVID-19: A Case of Operations Management at the University of Manchester

Akilu Yunusa-Kaltungo, Nafisatu Irene Okhade, Rukaiyatu Jungudo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The rapid adoption of technology and digitization of work, which has affected every facet of life including pedagogy, has created an opportunity to develop novel ways to teach technical and management skills to students to make them industry ready. However, several studies have highlighted that students studying engineering related disciplines within higher educational institutions are often disconnected from the management units within their programme curriculum, irrespective of the level of complexity. Additionally, there are concerns that the recent shifts towards predominantly hybrid or online & blended learning (OBL) approach advocated by most institutions due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19 pandemic has further eroded the already exiguous interest levels. This study therefore attempts to understand how engineering students at a department within the University of Manchester perceive management units and the possible root causes of previously observed attitudes. The unit examined was Operations Management (MACE30461), which is mandatory for all final year undergraduates studying for graduate degrees in aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering. The fundamental rationales behind selecting this unit are its coverage of several disciplines and cohort size, with an average of approximately 350 registered engineering students per year over the last five years. To achieve the overarching aim of this study, data was innovatively obtained from five separate cohorts, through a popular continuous improvement technique — the Fishbone diagram (FBD). The benefits of this data collection approach is multi-faceted. Firstly, it reinforces learning and familiarity of the students with the applied tools, which is crucial to the achievement of the intended learning outcomes (ILOs). Secondly, it enhances direct extraction of root causes (RCs) of the identified limiters as well as their possible causal relationships. Out of approximately 1758 students that have been registered on this unit over five years, 962 returned their solutions to the exercise. As it would be very unrealistic to present all of the individual FBDs constructed by each student, a harmonised FBD was reconstructed based on all the identified RCs. The results of the study generally depict two overwhelming findings. Firstly, there is a general misconception of the meaning of engineering, as most students believe that engineering programmes should only encompass core technical elements such as thermodynamics, design, fluid mechanics, vibrations, etc. Secondly, majority of students find the contents of most management units offered to engineering students uninteresting, particularly because of a lack of well-established link between such contents and what they perceive as real engineering. The authors therefore argue for innovative teaching methods that embed tools that are coherent with core technical units through hybrid or OBL, which is both cost effective and practical given the prevailing pandemic environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationASME 2022 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society of Mechanical Engineers
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-7918-8669-4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2023
EventASME 2022 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition - Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, United States
Duration: 30 Oct 20223 Nov 2022


ConferenceASME 2022 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
Abbreviated titleASME-IMECE
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • Engineering Education
  • Undergraduate
  • Management
  • online and blended learning


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