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Comparison of On-campus and Distance Learning Outcomes in a Composite Materials Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session

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Matthew Cavalli University of North Dakota

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Dr. Cavalli is Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Dean for the College of Engineering and Mines. In his role as Associate Dean, he oversees recruiting and K-12 outreach activities for the College as well as introductory mechanics courses. His research and teaching interests include solid mechanics and materials behavior.

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A senior-level elective course focused on composite materials (primarily polymer matrix) was taught simultaneously to both on-campus and distance cohorts. Distance lessons were delivered asynchronously. Assessment tools included exams, a term project and weekly homework assignments, some of which incorporated the development of a numerical code for simulating failure of composite plates. The term project focused on replacing a part in a current design with a part fabricated from composites, including specification of manufacturing processes and testing of the composite part.

Pre- and posttests were used, along with an end-of-term survey, to identify growth in student understanding related to composite materials over the course of the semester as well as to compare results from the on-campus and distance groups. Previous studies by Cavalli et al.1 in a required junior level materials science course (also taught to both on-campus and distance sections) indicated distance students, who are often working professionals, tended to underestimate their mastery of the material as represented by posttest performance. In contrast, on-campus students tended to overestimate their understanding of the course topics. Distance students attributed a higher value to recorded lectures and homework assignments with regards to aiding their understanding and on-campus students valued in-class discussions. The composites course studied in the present work would fall later in the curriculum than an introductory materials science course and is much more mathematically rigorous. Interestingly, the trends observed by Cavalli et al. did not hold in the current setting when distance and on-campus learners were compared, with on-campus students reporting both higher confidence in their abilities with the material as well as better performance on a course posttest.

Cavalli, M. (2017, June), Comparison of On-campus and Distance Learning Outcomes in a Composite Materials Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28056

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