New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
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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