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An FYE Course Structure for Collaborative Learning in Large Lecture Courses

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Jenni Buckley University of Delaware

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Dr. Buckley is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Delaware. She received her Bachelor’s of Engineering (2001) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware, and her MS (2004) and PhD (2006) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked on computational and experimental methods in spinal biomechanics. Since 2006, her research efforts have focused on the development and mechanical evaluation of medical and rehabilitation devices, particularly orthopaedic, neurosurgical, and pediatric devices. She teaches courses in design, biomechanics, and mechanics at University of Delaware and is heavily involved in K12 engineering education efforts at the local, state, and national levels.

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Amy Trauth University of Delaware Orcid 16x16

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Amy Trauth-Nare, Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Science Education at the University of Delaware's Professional Development Center for Educators. In her role, Amy works collaboratively with K-12 science and engineering teachers to develop and implement standards-based curricula and assessments. She also provides mentoring and coaching and co-teaching support to K-12 teachers across the entire trajectory of the profession. Her research focuses on teacher education, classroom assessment, and P-16 environmental and engineering education.

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Michael Chajes P.E. University of Delaware

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Michael Chajes is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His research focuses on bridge testing, evaluation, and rehabilitation, as well as engineering education. During his 25 years at UD, Dr. Chajes has served as Dean of the College of Engineering and Chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. He is a registered Professional Engineer and was named Delaware Engineer of the Year in 2010. 

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Lori Pollock University of Delaware

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Kevin R. Guidry


Michael L. Vaughan University of Delaware

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Michael L. Vaughan is Associate Dean and faculty member at the University of Delaware, College of Engineering. In this role, he is responsible for the College of Engineering academic affairs enterprise. Dean Vaughan manages the College of Engineering academic and educational support processes by developing and implementing policies, programs and interconnections to enhance the College ability to foster successful outcomes. Dean Vaughan is a member of the College leadership team. The College current has over 2442 undergraduate and over 850 graduate students.

For many years, he has served as the Campus Principal Investigator of the NSF funded Greater Philadelphia Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program and the NSF/AMP Bridges to the Doctorate Program, which focus on the success of students traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In addition, Dean Vaughan is the former Program Director/PI of the EAA/UD Graduate Preparatory Summer Residential Program funded by the Educational Advancement Alliance (EAA). The program includes up to 40 participants, rising juniors or seniors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who have interest in pursuing STEM disciplines at the graduate-level. Annually, Dean Vaughan supervises direction of the 4-week FAME/UD Summer Residential Program for 30-35 high school students, the RISE Summer Enrichment Program for incoming engineering freshmen and, in the past, the HEARD (Higher Education Awareness Response in Delaware) Project, a college awareness program, funded by the Department of Education through Philadelphia GEAR UP for College Network. Globally in the College, he manages academic programs and policies that impact the careers of all engineering students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Dean Vaughan is focused on enhancing the College’s student/faculty interface by fostering successful academic and professional outcomes in an increasingly multi-cultural and diverse engineering environment.

On campus, Dean Vaughan is past-chair of the University-wide Risk Management Advisory Committee (RMAC), past-chair of the Campus Transfer Student Working Group, a member of the University Community Engagement Commission, the DuPont Scholars Selection Committee, the Assistant and Associate Dean Council and the University Career Services Center Advisory Committee.

Off campus, he is or has been a member of various professional associations and currently sits on numerous boards and committees that focus on engineering education and issues that positively impact the lives of young people. Dean Vaughan served on the National Executive Committee of the GEM Consortium in Alexandria VA which funds graduate degrees in Engineering and Science. Dean Vaughan is a former President and former Treasurer of the Board of the GEM Corporation and past Chairman of the National GEM Investment Committee. Dean Vaughan was former Vice President of the board of directors and Operations Committee Chair of the National Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) based in Alexandria, Va. The JETS organization was a leading nonprofit educational enterprise dedicated to promoting engineering and technology careers to America's youth. Of the more than 40,000 students JETS served each year, 53 percent were from groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering and technology and 36 percent of participants were female. Dean Vaughan is a longstanding member of the President’s Advisory Committee of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council which encompasses girl scouting activities in all of the Delmarva Peninsula which includes Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. In addition, he is a former Board President of Delaware Futures of Wilmington, DE an organization which provides educational, social, and motivational support to high school students with unrealized potential to become successful college applicants. Dean Vaughan is also the convener and member of the External Advisory Board of HBCU-UP SMILE Project at Delaware State University which reports to the institution’s president.

Dean Vaughan joined the University of Delaware in 1992 after prior experience as Assistant to the Dean of Engineering/Adjunct Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University and Senior-level Electronics Engineer at the Naval Underseas Warfare Center in Newport, RI where he also served as the Coordinator of the TIMES2, Inc. program at Rogers High School in Newport. He received both his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University in 1982 and 1984, respectively. During his graduate work he was a Micro-Electronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC) Fellow. He is currently completing work for a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and President of the Board of Trustees of Bethel AME Church of Wilmington, DE. He is married to Cheryl M. Vaughan, a Private Banking Vice President, and they have been blessed with two children Sterling Michael, Accounting/MIS graduate at UD, and Carter Lynsay, a 14 year old aspiring young women engineer.

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Jeannie S. Stephens University of Delaware

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Jeannie Stephens received her doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Delaware in 2004. Since then, she has been a National Research Council fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a post doctoral fellow at Rice University, and a research scientist at DePuy Synthes (companies of Johnson & Johnson). Stephens first joined BME in September 2013 as temporary faculty and is now an assistant professor of instruction and associate director of BME’s undergraduate program. In this role, she will strengthen the department’s connection with the local medical community, both in clinical and industrial settings, in order to foster undergraduate design projects as well as internship and employment opportunities for our students.

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This work in progress describes an innovative approach to curriculum design and logistical infrastructure for a First Year Experience (FYE) engineering course that is delivered in a large lecture course format. FYE engineering courses at large, research-focused universities present a unique challenge from a curricular and administrative perspective. Prior research indicates large lecture-style courses should be interdisciplinary and highly interactive, while simultaneously presenting enough technical and career-specific content within each engineering discipline to aid or reinforce students’ choices of majors. These course characteristics are most effectively supported by student-centered pedagogical approaches in collaborative learning environments, where experienced faculty instructors provide some course structure with periodic lectures and ample time for break-out sessions for hands-on and group activity in small classes. While ideal from a pedagogical perspective, small class sizes with multiple, experienced faculty instructors are simply not attainable given the financial and human resource limitations at large, research-focused universities, particularly state schools that face expectations to keep tuition costs down. The challenge, then, is to design an FYE course that provides students with an intensive collaborative engineering design experience while being maximally efficient in terms of human and financial resources.

Our FYE engineering course, Introduction to Engineering (EGGG101), historically has been a large, 2-credit lecture course, with two sections of 325 to 350 students. The course is open to all students; however, 98% of enrollees are first-semester freshmen engineering students (all majors), excluding the recently launched Biomedical Engineering major. Prior to Fall 2015, the an associate dean (AD) level faculty member taught the course, with 1.5-2 week guest lecture periods from appointed faculty in each department. The AD faculty member lectured on common first-year topics such as use of on-campus learning resources, career planning, and future course selection, while the invited departmental faculty provided an overview of their discipline and assigned an individual or group homework activity. The course budget on the order of $30,000, with 0.41 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workload for faculty, many of whom were senior level. The course was not well received by students, as indicated by end-of-course assessments from 2011-2014 school years. Students rated the course particularly poorly in terms of overall utility, quality, and cohesiveness of instruction. Faculty in the college of engineering shared the same concerns and advocated for course redesign.

Beginning in Winter 2015, the FYE engineering course was redesigned by a team of four experienced faculty-level instructors who represented a range of engineering disciplines. Three of faculty co-taught the course as a 2-credit course with two large lecture sessions of 310-325 students. Revised course curricula were framed with a 4-phase engineering design process as well as the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering. Technical and career development topics, such as energy concepts, mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, prototyping, technical writing, and oral presentations were introduced through small group activities. These activities were intended to scaffold the skills needed for three substantive engineering design projects centered on: (1) Joy of Living and User-Centered Research; (2) Sustainability; and (3) Cybersecurity. Students worked in small groups (4-5 individuals) for all projects. Most activities and were mentored by upperclassmen teaching assistants (Peer Leaders) who held out-of-class time discussion sections and office hours for cohorts of 25-30 students each (28 Peer Leaders at 10 hours/week each). Two graduate teaching assistants (20 hours/week each) aided the faculty instructors in managing the Peer Leaders and preparing lecture content. The course budget was $75,000, much of it for Peer Leader salary, with 0.67 FTE faculty workload and 1.0 FTE graduate student.

This work in progress will present results of our course evaluation (pre-/interim-/post-course evaluations) of the revised FYE course with specific emphasis on student engagement and retention of core course concepts of engineering design and Grand Challenges. We will also compare the influence of course redesign using pre-redesign (2014) versus post-redesign (2015) student post-course evaluations, considering specifically the impact of the course redesign on perceptions of instructional quality, relevance of course content, and utility of the course in supporting career decision making. We hypothesize that the redesigned course will demonstrate substantially higher ratings of course quality and utility by students. Moreover, in light of the fact that resource usage in the redesigned course is comparable to a lecture-only course, we contend our redesigned FYE curricula and logistical infrastructure may be a model for other universities with large class sizes and limited resources.

Buckley, J., & Trauth, A., & Chajes, M., & Pollock, L., & Guidry, K. R., & Vaughan, M. L., & Stephens, J. S. (2016, June), An FYE Course Structure for Collaborative Learning in Large Lecture Courses Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26206

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