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A Comparative Study of the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Participation and Performance in First-Year Engineering Courses

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: First-Year Experiences

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Ashish D. Borgaonkar New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Dr. Ashish Borgaonkar works as Asst. Professor of Engineering Education at the New Jersey Institute of Technology's Newark College of Engineering located in Newark, New Jersey. He has developed and taught several engineering courses primarily in first-year engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and general engineering. He has won multiple awards for excellence in instruction; most recently the Saul K. Fenster Award for Innovation in Engineering Education. He also has worked on several research projects, programs, and initiatives to help students bridge the gap between high school and college as well as preparing students for the rigors of mathematics. His research interests include engineering education, integration of novel technologies into the engineering classroom, excellence in instruction, water, and wastewater treatment, civil engineering infrastructure, and transportation engineering.

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Jaskirat Sodhi New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Dr. Jaskirat Sodhi is interested in first-year engineering curriculum design and recruitment, retention and success of engineering students. He is the coordinator of ENGR101, an application-oriented course for engineering students placed in pre-calculus courses. He has also developed and co-teaches the Fundamentals of Engineering Design course that includes a wide spectra of activities to teach general engineering students the basics of engineering design using a hands-on approach which is also engaging and fun. He is an Institute for Teaching Excellence Fellow and the recipient of NJIT's 2018 Saul K. Fenster Innovation in Engineering Education Award.

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Roobini Vijayabalan

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Athira Suresh Kumar Nair

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This full paper presents a comparative analysis of student participation and performance across three semesters through which there were significant changes in the modes of delivery brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Despite the early warning signs, the pandemic took everyone by surprise and created widespread and long-lasting disruption in higher education. Engineering and other related fields that heavily relied on hands-on education were especially impacted the most by the pandemic. It was very challenging for students as well as faculty to adapt to the evolving pedagogy of how the engineering curriculum is taught. First-year students for whom this disruption happened in their first or second semester in college had to adjust quickly and efficiently not only to college life but also to a changing world in order to survive. This study focuses on examining how the participation and performance of these students were impacted by the pandemic. Just like most places in the United States, our mid-sized STEM university was forced to move all courses to remote instruction mode in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester. Even though faculty and students worked very hard to successfully navigate the semester; there was a noticeable decline, observed anecdotally, in the student performance. In order to further explore this general observation, two first-year engineering courses are selected for a comparative study. The first course is a required core course that caters to students from general engineering major. The second one is a remedial course aimed at helping students make the connection between concepts of mathematics and their engineering applications. This course is taken by students from all engineering majors who are placed in pre-calculus courses and need the extra help and motivation to move quickly through the mathematics sequence. For both these courses, the overall performance and class participation through attendance and assignment submission rates are analyzed. A highly noticeable difference was observed before and after the COVID-19 disruption during the Spring 2020 semester. The current situation, for all its downside, does offer a unique opportunity to further expand this comparative study. In Fall 2019, both these courses were run in the standard mode as they have been for many years. In Spring 2020, the courses started out as face-to-face as in the past but were forced to move to a fully online mode in the middle of the semester. In Fall 2020, both these courses were offered in a hybrid mode where some students are able to attend some portions of the courses in-person, while others join the session synchronously but remotely. This paper presents the findings of a comparative study across these three semesters using the same parameters to gauge student participation and performance in the selected courses. The authors hope to learn and disseminate what is the right combination of modules and activities to promote student engagement and success that works best in the current situation and the "new normal" to follow.

Borgaonkar, A. D., & Sodhi, J., & Vijayabalan, R., & Nair, A. S. K. (2021, July), A Comparative Study of the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Participation and Performance in First-Year Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36566

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