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Blended Statics: Finding an Effective Mix of Traditional and Flipped Classrooms in an Engineering Mechanics Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Hybrid and Online Teaching of Mechanics

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Serge Raymond Maalouf University of Maine

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Serge Maalouf is a graduate student and teaching assistant in the department of Mechanical Engineering
and the department of Mathematics at the University of Maine. His current research includes multiscale modeling of nanomaterials to study their mechanical behavior using atomistic and first-principles computational techniques coupled with nonlinear elasticity. Before joining the University of Maine, Serge pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Balamand (Lebanon) where he worked on the mechanics of lamina containing wavy fibers.

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Olivier Putzeys P.E. University of Maine

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Olivier Putzeys is a Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine. Prior to UMaine, he was an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Montana State University. Dr. Putzeys worked at Exponent, Inc., a failure analysis consulting firm, for five years following his graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, which followed his undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at Bucknell University.

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Flipped classrooms and active learning are becoming more common in engineering education. The ability to concentrate on each student’s specific pedagogical needs is of vital importance to increase the number of engineering graduates and keep students motivated while making sure they all understand the required material. Flipped classes have some drawbacks which include some students having difficulty learning the content on their own, even with the availability of lecture videos, books and other references.

In an attempt to reap some benefits of the flipped classroom format while minimizing its drawbacks, we have designed and implemented a “blended” statics course. This new course format is part of an effort to increase efficiency and effectiveness of courses offered at multiple campuses within a state university system. Our blended (or “partially flipped”) course format includes a mix of traditional classroom lectures and pre-recorded video lectures. In a typical week (for a Tuesday/Thursday schedule), one period is a traditional lecture, and the other period is an “Activity Session”. Before each Activity Session, students watch several pre-recorded mini-lecture videos (typically 2-8 minutes each) and complete online quizzes to gauge their understanding of the new material. In the Activity Sessions, students work on hands-on experiments (in a laboratory), computer simulations, and/or problems (some of which were real life conceptual problems) with support from the instructor, Teaching Assistant and/or undergraduate learning assistants. In addition, traditional weekly homework (on paper) is assigned, and traditional exams (in the classroom) are given.

The new aspects of this course are: (1) the blended format; (2) the development of novel activities for the classroom and laboratory; (3) the use of a “lightboard”, in which the instructor writes on a glass board while facing the video camera, to record the mini-lecture videos; (4) the sharing of the collection of videos and activities between multiple instructors across two campuses. (5) the flexibility for the instructor to “flip” any desired percentage of the semester’s lectures. This paper describes and illustrates these new aspects in detail.

Customized mid-semester and end-of-semester surveys were completed to gather students’ opinions on the blended format. In addition, standard course evaluation form data, from both the blended and traditional-format courses (taught by the same instructor), were compared. Further, direct assessment of student learning was done using identical final exam questions in both course formats. The data and student comments are provided in the paper. The results indicate that the blended format was effective, with potential significant advantages over the traditional format, primarily due to the Activity Sessions. In addition, the results indicate that most students preferred the blended format, and they would, given the opportunity, enroll in other blended-format courses. Furthermore, the instructor enjoyed teaching the blended format, and was able to get better feedback from the students (e.g., concepts with which they were struggling) due to the interactions during the Activity Sessions.

Maalouf, S. R., & Putzeys, O. (2020, June), Blended Statics: Finding an Effective Mix of Traditional and Flipped Classrooms in an Engineering Mechanics Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34220

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