July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
The COVID-19 global pandemic has suspended conventional operations in engineering education and forced changes that will inform our practice for years to come. The need for engineering educators to adapt course designs in short time frames amidst the compounding uncertainty of safety protocols, operational postures, and accreditation requirements is unprecedented and still evolving. As teachers update classroom technology, content, rubrics instructional schemes and cohort assignments there is much uncertainty about how this will affect our students. This paper attempts to critically evaluate the effect of new teaching and course delivery models on student experiences, preferences, learning and course strengths within a Sustainability course.
Using principles from HyFlex literature, our R1 university created a flexible instructional model. This Flex-Model is designed to accommodate in-person and remote instruction for professors and students alike. Instructors were encouraged to flexibly incorporate face-to-face class meetings with opportunities for remote students to participate using video conferencing technology (i.e. blended course delivery). Instructors were asked to leverage synchronous online activities, and asynchronous online content as appropriate to the size of their class, availability of suitable classroom space, content, and course structure (e.g., lecture-based, discussion, recitation, project-based, lab, studio) while considering the location of the students and access to on-campus resources.
This research strives to evaluate the effectiveness of the Flex-Model through the lens of the student experience in a Sustainability course due to its interdisciplinary nature and that all 6 of our engineering departments were represented within the class population. The course is a topics course requiring weekly readings, discussions, assignments, and quizzes. The class roster consisted of 92 students (10 graduate students) with two of the co-authors serving as instructors.
Data from student surveys conducted before, and during the Fall 2020 semester were analyzed. Survey questions included both qualitative and quantitative prompts.
Open reflections on student learning, general experience, challenges and percieved advantages
- Comparative Flex-Model ratings of student experience, preferences, and course strengths relative to conventional in-person courses
- Likert scale ratings of important pedagogical elements of Flex-Model course design and course delivery relative to conventional in-person courses (e.g. lectures, format, discussions, in-class, content organization, communication, rapport)
Along with instructor observations, the data analysis presented some revealing conclusions from the student perspective. Prior to the semester, student responses were highly focused on anxiety about safety and uncertainty about the level of online engagement in the class experience. Survey results during the semester indicated that while the online content, virtual classes, organization, and faculty efforts were rated very positively, there remains a very strong preference for in-person experiences that were inadequately reproduced virtually. Among the student comments, there was a strong correlation to the lack of personal engagement, increased distractions, decreased motivation, hesitancy to engage in class discussions and the lesser ability to develop rapport with peers and professors.
Sanchez, D. V., & Kerzmann, T. L., & Chouinard, C. P., & Kotchey, G. P. (2021, July), Assessing the Effectiveness of a Flex Model for a Sustainability Course in the COVID-19 Learning Environment Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36712
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