Asee peer logo

Computer Simulation and Animation in Engineering Mechanics: A Critical Review and Analysis

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Potpouri - A Mix

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.321.1 - 23.321.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Oai Ha Utah State University

visit author page

Oai Ha is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Utah State University. He works as a graduate research assistant on a research project that focuses on studying the effect of computer simulation and animation on student learning in engineering dynamics. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Technology, Hochiminh City, Vietnam, and his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Before joining USU, he had eleven years of working experience in engineering and construction. His research interests include computer simulation and animation, numerical modeling, cognition and metacognition, and multimedia learning.

visit author page


Ning Fang Utah State University

visit author page

Ning Fang is an Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at Utah State University. He has taught a variety of engineering courses such as engineering dynamics, metal machining, and design for manufacturing. His areas of interest include computer-assisted instructional technology, curricular reform in engineering education, the modeling and optimization of manufacturing processes, and lean product design. He earned his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and is the author of more than 60 technical papers published in refereed international journals and conference proceedings. He is a Senior Member of the Society for Manufacturing Engineering and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is also a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and a member of the American Educational Research Association.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Computer Simulation and Animation in Engineering Dynamics: A Critical Review and AnalysisAbstractEngineering dynamics is a high-enrollment, high-impact, and core course that nearly all studentsin mechanical, aerospace, civil, biological, and biomedical engineering programs are required totake. The course covers a broad spectrum of mathematical and physics concepts and requiresstudents to have strong skills in abstract thinking and spatial visualization. Many dynamicsinstructors have adopted a variety of instructional tools, such as computer simulation andanimation (CSA), to improve teaching and learning in this important course. However, thereported benefit of these CSA programs varies among different learners. Many CSA programsare not designed based on cognitive principles, particularly Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), tomaximize student learning outcomes.The goal of the present study is to investigate the cognitive and technical constructs of CSAstudies by performing a critical and systematic literature review and analysis on the effect ofCSA on student learning in engineering dynamics. Common study characteristics wereidentified and categorized from the investigation of cognitive and technical aspects of CSA, andwere used as criteria to synthesize and compare the reported studies. On the cognitive side, eachstudy’s outcome was analyzed based on the variations of learner control on CAS programs. Asproved by many studies, CSA can reduce extraneous cognitive load and improve learning bypermitting learners control the pacing of CSA, segmenting CSA into smaller chunks toexperience the changes at learners’ discretion, and manipulating the flow of contents appearingto learners. On the technical side, the accessibility of the web-based CSA modules from thelearner’s side with respect to types of software (i.e., proprietary and open source software) and avariety of platforms and devices was analyzed.The research finding made from the present study reveal that many existing CSA programsdeveloped for engineering dynamics were not designed to adequately address cognitiveprinciples associated with CLT to reduce cognitive load and enhance student learning. AlthoughCSA was reported to improve student learning and enhance spatial visualization, most ofassessment studies relied on students’ self-reported questionnaire surveys, which might notrepresent true learning gains of students. In addition, many studies were performed withoutcontrol group and random assignment of student participants, which presented significant threatsto the validity of these assessments. Most CSA were designed to allow for student access fromany traditional personal computers (PCs) or laptops without the use of any proprietary software.The research findings made from the present study will help design or redesign better CSAprograms and maximize student learning gains in engineering dynamics.

Ha, O., & Fang, N. (2013, June), Computer Simulation and Animation in Engineering Mechanics: A Critical Review and Analysis Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19335

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015