Asee peer logo

An Innovative Freshmen Engineering Course To Improve Retention

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

FPD1 - Early Success and Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.182.1 - 13.182.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Jale Tezcan Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

author page

John Nicklow Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

author page

James Mathias Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

author page

Lalit Gupta Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

author page

Rhonda Kowalchuk Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Innovative Freshmen Engineering Course to Improve Retention


As part of a federally funded project to improve retention, the College of Engineering (COE) at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale (SIUC) has implemented a college-wide Introduction to Engineering course to replace the first-year introductory engineering courses offered by individual departments. Introduction to Engineering is an innovative course designed to reinforce the retention efforts of the COE by addressing several issues that hamper student success.

Introduction to Engineering adopts a holistic approach to keep students interested and excited about engineering. All engineering freshmen are exposed to different engineering disciplines through a combination of engaging and informative lectures, projects and seminars. The hands- on projects increase students’ self confidence and teach them skills that a traditional classroom setting cannot offer. The course also aims to dispel the fear of mathematics, the primary reason for poor retention rates in many engineering colleges.

Three faculty members, representing the Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical and Computer Engineering Departments, which collectively receive 90% of the freshmen class, coordinate the course with the help of six teaching assistants. A separate team is responsible for regular collection and analysis of student feedback. General trends affecting students’ academic performance are discussed at weekly meetings and applicable adjustments are made. All aspects of the course are supervised by the Associate Dean of the College.

The course was offered for the first time in Fall 2007. Although it is still too early to evaluate the success of the course after one semester, available assessment data, including students’ perceptions of the course and their academic performance strongly indicate that the course will improve retention and graduation rates in the COE.


Retention of engineering students is critical to ensuring the adequacy of engineers to meet the demands of the industry. Recent statistics indicate a concerning decrease in the graduation rates, accelerating the research into engineering persistence 1.

Several researchers have attempted to identify early indicators of engineering persistence 1-4. Daempfle 5 and Pascarella et al. 6 propose a variety of interdependent factors relating to the level of preparation of the incoming student, academic environment, and expectations about work and family. Many studies stress the importance of first-year college experience and students’ self-perception of math ability in persistence. Jackson et al. 7 concludes that the first- year GPA is the best predictor of attrition. According to Besterfield-Sacre, M., et al. 8, adoption of an active learning format has the strongest impact on students’ academic performance and their attitudes about engineering profession.9

Tezcan, J., & Nicklow, J., & Mathias, J., & Gupta, L., & Kowalchuk, R. (2008, June), An Innovative Freshmen Engineering Course To Improve Retention Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3458

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: © 2008 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