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Case Study For A First Year Seminar: A Plan Which (Mostly) Worked

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.138.1 - 5.138.6



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Richard B. Englund

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

Session 2793

Case Study for a First-Year Seminar: A Plan Which (mostly) Worked

Richard Englund The Pennsylvania State University at Erie


A First-Year Seminar is now required for all students entering Penn State University. The goal is to provide interaction between faculty and small groups of students early in every program of study to personalize the university, to get the students to work collaboratively from the start, and to introduce the students to academic life. Some of the offered seminars are general, applicable to any major, and other seminars are included in courses specific to particular majors. An introductory engineering technology course titled “Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes” has been modified to include a seminar and is effectively required for all students entering a range of majors.

One of the goals for this particular seminar class is to acquaint the students with the courses in their majors, and how the courses integrate with the goals of the major. A case study was developed based on a damaged lawn mower, and presented in the seminar. The problem presented in the case study was purposely incomplete, with a series of tasks listed which would be necessary to resolve the damage to the lawnmower. The students were required to search the courses of their major to determine which course provides the tools to accomplish the listed tasks. The case study was re-visited in a subsequent week for concluding remarks about the integration of the courses in the major.

The case study is presented in this paper, and suggestions for development of other case studies applicable to first-year students. Additional information presented in a subsequent class is described, as is an evaluation of the benefits of the case study as it was presented the first time. Observations for improvement of the effectiveness of case studies in first-year seminars are also presented.

Development of a Case Study

Entering freshmen often come with little experience and few skills applicable to engineering tasks, yet they resent spending up to four semesters in preparation for engineering courses. The movement to first-year experiences in engineering is intended to introduce them to the techniques of the profession early in their program of study, and to motivate the students to study in the support courses. Often the students have no knowledge or experience to use as a base for such an introduction. Technical content of case studies for first-year must be (1) limited to that which can be explained in the case study, or (2) is generic enough that all students can be expected to have some experience with the device or subject. In an introductory seminar, the

Englund, R. B. (2000, June), Case Study For A First Year Seminar: A Plan Which (Mostly) Worked Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8199

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