June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.53.1 - 22.53.10
A Learning Community for First-Year Engineering CoursesAbstractA learning community has been established for first-year students in the Department ofEngineering at our institution. Two first-year courses were linked with shared homeworkassignments. In addition, a three-hour robotics lab was added to stimulate students’ interest inengineering, to introduce students to team work, and to allow students to meet other facultymembers in the program. The above items are known strategies for increasing retention.The primary objective of this learning community is to improve the retention of the first-yearengineering students. The learning community has been established for two first-yearengineering courses Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving for Engineers. Both ofthem introduce programming concepts and two programming languages to the learningcommunity of the first-year engineering students. While Introduction to Engineering is a broad-based preliminary course for all freshman students who are interested in engineering, ProblemSolving for Engineers is a more specific MATLAB-based programming course. The learningcommunity is established first by having joint homework/lab assignments in both MATLAB andExcel. These assignments consist of reading and manipulating data, applying formulas and thenplotting the results.Second, the Introduction to Engineering course has a lab in which each group of students buildsand programs a LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robot to accomplish certain tasks by using theMindstorms NXT graphical programming language. In the near future, in the Problem Solvingfor Engineers course, a joint assignment will be given to finish the same tasks by usingMATLAB to help the students learn the differences between a text-based programming languagelike MATLAB and a graphical programming language like Mindstorms NXT. Furthermore, thebest robots will be displayed in cabinets near the classroom along with the team pictures.Third, there were monthly meetings of the faculty teaching the first year courses. The discussionsincluded the students’ performance, class schedules and other related issues dealing with thelearning community of first-year students.A survey was developed and administered before and after the robotics lab to evaluate students’satisfaction and the knowledge gained. The results show an improvement in students’satisfaction of the overall experience. The effect of the learning community on students’ learningand retention was assessed. The students that are enrolled in only one of the classes served as acontrol group.
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015