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An Interactive Web Based Statics Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Internet Delivery of Mechanics Courses

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.224.1 - 12.224.12



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Paper Authors

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Paul Steif Carnegie Mellon University

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Anna Dollar Miami University

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



Progress in developing a web-based Statics course through foundation support is reported. This course is part of a larger initiative that seeks to create and sustain freely available, cognitively informed learning tools designed to provide a substantial amount of instruction through the digital learning environment. Courses are interactive and self-correcting, by providing substantial feedback both to students and to instructors. The Statics course, in particular, draws in part upon the authors’ ongoing work to recognize conceptual difficulties in Statics and to reorganize Statics instruction to better address the conceptual challenges students face. Each module is based on a set of carefully articulated learning objectives, and contains expository text and various interactive exercises and simulations. The explanation of basic concepts capitalizes appropriately on the computer’s capability for displaying digital images, video, and simulations controlled by the user. Assessment is tightly integrated within each module, with students confronting frequently interspersed “Learn by Doing” activities, which offer hints and feedback. Summative “Did I Get This” interactive assessments at the end of each section in a module signal to students if additional studying is needed to meet learning objectives.

1. Introduction

There is an increasing demand for engineering education around the world, as well as increasing opportunities to leverage technology for this purpose. As one response, we are seeking to create a complete on-line introductory-level Statics course for novice learners. This project is part of a wider Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, to develop cognitively-informed high quality on-line courses. With this Statics course we hope to increase the number of learners that can be reached (including independent learners), and to support other instructors with high quality content and pedagogical design.

In most institutions, Statics is taught in a traditional way with an emphasis on the mathematical operations that are useful in its implementation, but perhaps without enough emphasis on modeling the interactions between real mechanical artifacts. Often, students who learn Statics in this traditional way fail to learn to utilize Statics in the analysis and design of mechanical systems and structures which they confront in subsequently. Prior to beginning work on the OLI Statics course, the authors along with others identified key concepts in Statics1 and developed a testing instrument, the Statics Concept Inventory, to measure a student’s ability to use those concepts in isolation2-4. The authors also combined a variety of instructional techniques known to increase learning, such as active learning, collaboration, integration of assessment and feedback, and the use of concrete physical manipulatives5-6, to devise a sequence of learning modules. Besides providing stimulating activities for the classroom, these learning modules reflected a more deliberate, sequential approach to addressing concepts in Statics. One feature of this approach was the initial focus on the equilibrium of simple objects that could be held by hand, and for which the forces are readily apparent to students.

Steif, P., & Dollar, A. (2007, June), An Interactive Web Based Statics Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1669

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