The Drexel Engineering Curriculum and

 its Impact on the Electrical and Computer Engineering Program


By Dr. Nihat Bilgutay

Drexel University



The restructuring of the engineering curriculum at Drexel University began in 1988 with the NSF funded project entitled “Enhanced Educational Experience for Engineers” or simply “E4.”  This major grant fueled the efforts that led to the development of the experimental Freshman E4 Curriculum in 1989, which was later extended to include the sophomore year in 1990.  In 1989, a cohort of 100 freshman were the first wave of Drexel engineering students to enter this experimental program, which incorporated many novel concepts such as early focus on engineering, integrated approach to math, science and engineering, experiential learning with extensive exposure to laboratory and computers across the curriculum, mandatory freshman design projects, and emphasis on team work and development of communication skills.  The experimental engineering program at Drexel was highly successful and received extensive national and international attention. Significant improvement in student performance and retention rates, industry satisfaction with Co-op students and graduates, and higher alumni satisfaction were among the positive impacts.  Several key aspects of E4 were widely emulated by scores of engineering schools across the world.  The E4 Program steadily grew in enrollments outpacing the enrollments in the traditional curriculum and was finally adopted as the new Drexel Engineering Curriculum or “tDEC” in 1994. 


The establishment of Gateway Engineering Education Coalition in 1992 with funding from NSF had several major impacts, including the dissemination of the key elements of E4 to the Gateway coalition partners, extending the restructuring efforts to the disciplinary curricula in the upper division, and the “institutionalization” of E4 as the Drexel Engineering Curriculum. 


The upper division curricular restructuring efforts at Drexel led to the development of an entirely new ECE curriculum, which was completed in 1998.  The 5-year Co-op based degree program in Electrical Engineering provides depth and breadth in subject area, with significant flexibility in disciplinary and interdisciplinary course choices and EE concentrations. Our curriculum delivers design and laboratory experiences throughout the five years and enhances teamwork and communications skills.  Students can do minors, dual majors, BS/MS, or pre-professional preparation with the flexibility attained. The ongoing efforts at Drexel aim to support the spirit of curricular innovations and continuous improvement of our engineering programs.