At a large university in the mid-west, two courses, Engineering Models I and II, are offered to all first-year engineering students and form a two-semester sequence in which students apply fundamental theories from algebra, trigonometry, calculus and physics to relevant engineering applications chosen from a variety of disciplines. MATLAB® is introduced and progressively developed as a computing tool to enable students to explore engineering concepts, to investigate solutions to problems too complex for hand solutions, to analyze and present data effectively, and to develop an appreciation of the power and limitations of computer tools. Students are introduced to the basics of programming as well as such ideas as interpolation, curve-fitting, and numeric differentiation and integration, through applications areas such as data analysis, image processing, communications, position tracking, basic mechanics, and system modeling. Throughout the courses, several team projects are introduced requiring the students to use MATLAB® to develop solutions to open-ended design problems.
The Engineering Models sequence was required for all incoming first-year engineering and engineering technology students starting with the 2012-2013 academic year. Lectures, recitation activities, homework assignments, exams, and projects were common across all sections, though some variation existed in how lectures were delivered. In order to reduce variation between sections, a flipped pedagogy was implemented for the 2013-2014 academic year in these courses. Specifically, videos were created from the lecture material covered in the first offering and students were required to watch these videos prior to lecture and take a short quiz at the start of each lecture. Lecture time was then devoted to solving problems, either in small groups or as a class. The flipped classroom implementation was modified for the 2014-2015 academic year. Based on student feedback, the videos were remade and edited to keep the length to around 10 minutes and more effort was made to provide instructors with resources for problem-solving activities so that the lecture periods were more consistently utilized for problem-solving and not for straight lecturing.
Through end-of-semester surveys completed by the students, it was found that many students preferred to simply review the provided slides instead of watching the lectures. While the videos do provide additional content not available solely through the slides, they are still a mostly passive way to gain information (there are practice quizzes available, but the videos themselves do not provide much interaction). To cater to those students who did not gain much from the videos, a system was created that is more interactive. The system, dubbed the Engineering Models Practice System, was created in MATLAB® and was modeled after the successful online site Codecademy, where students are presented with course content and are asked to complete simple exercises based on this material. The content available in the practice system is the same as that in the videos, but affords students the opportunity to immediately apply the material towards solving simple problems.
This paper will use data from end-of-semester student surveys and performance on course assignments to analyze the effectiveness of the practice system compared to the traditional lecture preparation options.
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