Implementation of student-centered learning has shown wide global acceptance within institutes of higher learning. Some methods, such as active learning, project-based learning, problem-based learning, and experiential-based learning, have significantly impacted the students’ understanding of a particular subject. However, students will still have problems integrating the materials learned from one course to other courses. Thus, this is where the proposed initiative comes in. This paper discusses the implementation of integrated project-based learning (IPBL) to assist students in integrating the knowledge gained from one course to the other for first-year chemical engineering students of Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS. The mapping of assessments and learning domains to the learning activities are also shown in detail. This study was conducted on two courses offered in the same semester, namely, Principles of Chemical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Fluid Mechanics, in January 2019. A total of 214 students grouped in 43 teams were asked to develop a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hydraulic jack, which uses the fundamentals taught in these two courses. The results show that 100 % student was able to come up with a working prototype within 5 weeks and 90 % of the students agree that the initiative increased their understanding in chemical engineering fundamentals and developed their leadership, problem-solving, communications and time management skills.
Standard STEM programs are typically offered to students through a series of courses that need to be completed in 4 years. Knowledge is imparted to the students in courses for a better understanding of the overall program. In the chemical engineering discipline, the courses were taught separately to have more focus within each intended course, such as separation, reaction, fundamentals, control, and safety. This was necessary to equip the students with an in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals in a sequential manner. Conventionally, the program requires an individual project or a team project to be given to the students. It was expected for the students to complete it and send in a report to the instructor. However, a recent trend in academia showed project-based learning and problem-based learning as alternative approaches for the projects. This initiative can be seen in subjects such as process control (Yusof et al., 2012), separation process (Calvo and Prieto, 2016), design project (Vega and Navarrete, 2019), unit operations and modeling and simulations (Ballesteros et al., 2019), reaction engineering (Azizan et al., 2018), and introduction to engineering (Sadikin et al., 2019).
However, a problem that can be seen in this approach is the failure to integrate the learning materials from one topic or course to another. Several methods have been proposed over the years, such as open-ended problems, problem-based learning, case studies, cooperative learning, and class debates (Hung et al., 2008; Hamouda and Tarlochan, 2015). Although there is still inconclusive evidence on which approach is most suited for enhancing critical thinking skills, addressing this issue only within individual courses would limit the students' time to gain other critical skills (Huber and Kuncel, 2016).