Development and Implementation of Interactive Virtual Laboratories to Help Students Learn Threshold Concepts in Thermodynamics – Year 3
Thermodynamics is a difficult subject for chemical and biological engineering students to master. One reason for the difficulty is the diverse and challenging set of threshold concepts that they must coherently synthesize and be able to apply in a diverse range of contexts. Based on our experience and from reports in the literature, we have identified a set of six threshold concepts we propose are critical for mastery of thermodynamics. The goal of this TUES project is to develop a corresponding set of Interactive Virtual Laboratories to help students identify and learn these six threshold concepts. The intent of this project is not to develop a comprehensive list of all the threshold concepts needed to master thermodynamics. Rather we would like to examine a subset of threshold concepts and illustrate, first, that they can form a design basis for development of Interactive Virtual Laboratories where students can actively experience multiple representations, and, second, that experience with these virtual laboratories helps students learn.
The following specific project objectives have been constructed to achieve this goal:
1. Validate a set of six proposed threshold concepts in thermodynamics.
2. Develop Interactive Virtual Laboratories to provide students multiple representations and help them experientially explore these threshold concepts. Develop the virtual laboratories based on engineering education best practices and multimedia development principles to provide students structured engagement, such as incorporating the “predict, observe, explain” technique.
3. Deliver the Interactive Virtual Laboratories in classes using the studio architecture recently implemented at the home institution.
4. Assess the perception and effectiveness of the Interactive Virtual Laboratories through
a. Classroom observation, student surveys, and instructor and student focus groups
b. Measurement of learning gains on the Throttling Valve question and the Technician question, two conceptual questions that have been historically difficult for students
5. Incorporate the Interactive Virtual Laboratories as resources in the AIChE Concept Warehouse so that they are broadly available for engineering and science instructors to use.
Year 3 progress will be reported including the following: Nine Interactive Virtual Laboratories have been developed based on best practices in engineering education pedagogy and sound multimedia development principles. They are available to the engineering community through integration into the AIChE Concept Warehouse, another NSF supported project. Five laboratories have been implemented in two thermodynamics studio classes. They have been delivered both in class and for homework. An analysis of the content of student responses allows identification of concepts they struggle with as well as opportunities for further development of the Interactive Virtual Laboratories. Student perceptions of the Interactive Virtual Laboratories including comparison between the two modes of delivery is reported. The most recent work centers around creating analytics of students performance and interaction patterns with the IVLs.
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