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Building Comprehensive Open Educational Resources in Mechanics: Evaluating Approaches to Problem Development

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

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July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

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Bringing a Different Perspective

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Agnes Germaine D'entremont P.Eng. University of British Columbia, Vancouver Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Agnes d’Entremont, P.Eng., is an Associate Professor of Teaching in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UBC. Her teaching-related interests include team-based learning and flipped classroom approaches, open educational materials, and educating non-engineers about engineering, as well as diversity and climate issues in engineering education. Her technical research in Orthopaedic Biomechanics is in the area of human joint motion and cartilage health, with a particular focus on pediatric hip disorders and MRI-based methods.

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Andrea S. Webb The University of British Columbia Orcid 16x16


Sean Maw P.Eng. University of Saskatchewan

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Dr. Maw currently holds the Huff Chair in Innovative Teaching in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. In this capacity, his work focuses on learning facilitation methods especially as they pertain to engineering design. He earned his BASc and MASc degrees in Systems Design Engineering from Waterloo, and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Alberta. His current research interests lie in sports engineering and engineering pedagogy.

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Jennifer Kirkey Douglas College

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Jennifer Kirkey has been teaching physics and astronomy at Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada for 30 years. She is the chair of the provincial articulation committee for physics and astronomy. She is on the committee that developed and oversees the Engineering Program at Douglas College. She is an advocate for open textbooks and open educational resources in general.

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Open educational resources have several benefits, but the most salient one for students is often cost. As part of a larger Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) initiative to adopt, adapt or create open textbooks for engineering in our region [1], it was determined that no acceptable open alternative currently exists for the major first- and second-year statics and dynamics textbooks. While there exist some good quality open textbooks (e.g. MechanicsMap [2]), the primary limitation to adoption was the relatively small number of practice problems available.

Learning mechanics usually involves solving large numbers of practice problems. Typical undergraduate mechanics textbooks have 3000+ practice problems [3]. These problems are very time consuming to produce, with past experience suggesting each problem takes >2 hours to design, solve, code, test, and illustrate. We believed that the time and resources needed to create large numbers of practice problems was the major barrier in creating a viable open competitor to commercial mechanics textbooks. As a result, we started by creating the problems before writing any of the text. We have created 270 dynamics and 697 statics problems to date in this ongoing project.

The three instructors on this project work in different contexts and covered different content to date. We include mechanics instructors for first-year at a transfer college (particle dynamics questions), first-year at a mid-sized public research-intensive university (statics questions), and second-year at a large public research-intensive university (rigid body dynamics questions). The dynamics questions were created using WeBWorK [4], an open online homework system while the statics questions were created using Mobius [5], a proprietary system, and converted into WeBWorK for open use. We also focused on different strategies and priorities for problem creation: a large bank of fundamental questions versus a range of question levels, with fewer questions at each level.

Our paper will evaluate the open online homework development process using Appreciative Inquiry. We will detail the problem development and cross-institutional collaboration processes, and the selection of our online platforms. We will discuss best practices, including for the processes of creation, testing, and deployment, and the future path of this multi-year project. We will also situate this development within past open homework problem development [6]. Links will be provided to all the problems and images, which are Creative Commons licensed and available for use.

[1] Removed for blinding [2] J. Moore, M. Chatsaz, A. G. d’Entremont, J. Kowalski, and D. Miller, MechanicsMap. 2020. [3] R. C. Hibbeler, Engineering Mechanics: Statics and Dynamics. Pearson, 2013. [4] MAA, “WeBWork Main Page,” WeBWork Documentation Wiki. . [5] DigitalEd, “Möbius - Online Learning Platform for Mathematics-Based Courses.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Oct-2020]. [6] Removed for blinding

D'entremont, A. G., & Webb, A. S., & Maw, S., & Kirkey, J. (2021, July), Building Comprehensive Open Educational Resources in Mechanics: Evaluating Approaches to Problem Development Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36767

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