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Conducting Virtual Focus Groups to Identify How Rewards Have Affected the Valuation of Technology in Engineering Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Trends in Engineering Education 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.312.1 - 24.312.14



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Paper Authors


Flora P. McMartin Broad-based Knowledge, LLC

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Flora McMartin is the founder of Broad-based Knowledge, LLC (BbK), a consulting firm focused on assisting educators in higher education in their evaluation of the use and deployment of technology-assisted teaching and learning. BbK specializes in building organizational and project-level evaluation capacities and integrating evaluation into management activities. Current research projects focus on: Innovations in technology, student learning and faculty roles; effective dissemination of innovative teaching practices; development of collaborative faculty work groups; and the institutionalization of educational innovations.

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Sarah Holsted Broad-based Knowledge

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Joshua Morrill Morrill Solutions Research (MSR)


Joseph G. Tront Virginia Tech

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Dr. Joe Tront is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Bradley ECE Department at Virginia Tech. He is an international thought leader in the deployment and use of tablet PCs in learning environments. He has responsibility for developing techniques for the appropriate use and assessment of mobile learning technology across the university. In addition to the faculty and student training he provides at Virginia Tech, Joe has delivered over 50 workshops worldwide where he has introduced people to the new technology and provided them with methods to enhance the way they teach and the way they perform their daily work using mobile devices such as tablet PCs.

Dr. Tront received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from SUNY, Buffalo and has worked in a variety of technical fields, including integrated circuit design, space-based systems, computer and network security, and learning psychology as applied to engineering education. He is a member of the IEEE and ACM and has published numerous papers in professional society journals and conferences. He has received several awards for his leadership in the use of technology in the learning environment, including the Computerworld Laureate medal and the Pete White Chair for Engineering Education Innovation.

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Conducting Virtual Focus Groups with Engineering Education Faculty and AdministratorsThis abstract describes the final phase of a multi-year study to 1) assess the impact of rewards onthe teaching practice of engineering educators and to 2) describe the spread of pedagogicalinnovations across engineering education. The study is situated within the context of the PremierAward for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware, which, from 1997-2012,highlighted and rewarded teaching innovations associated with technology. Our study is guidedby the research question, "What has been the impact of efforts to motivate faculty to innovatewith technology in engineering education?"Results of the first phases of the study (text analysis of award applications; interviews withaward-winning faculty) were reported in a paper at ASEE 2012 that identified, at an individuallevel, the long-term impact of receiving the Premier Award. In the final phase of the study weare gathering data (via online survey and virtual focus group) to assess the impact of the PremierAward at an institutional level and to identify the broader role of rewards in facilitating changewithin engineering education.The online survey was distributed in April 2013 to deans and department chairs via an emaillistserv managed by ASEE. Participants' (N=236) qualitative and quantitative responses providedbaseline information that has informed the design of the virtual focus groups. Forty-four percentof respondents indicated that faculty on their campus are rewarded for using innovativecourseware, and 42% indicated faculty were rewarded for developing or creating courseware.But, respondents interpreted the term "courseware" broadly, referring to a variety of onlinelearning tools, not just curriculum or learning environments. Campus-wide teaching awards werethe most-reported type of reward, though some campuses offered faculty release time, publicity,and cash awards. However, almost a fifth of respondents indicated they did not know of anyfaculty rewards on their campuses. Eight of the respondents indicated that someone from theircampus had received the Premier Award.To discuss nuances in the survey results and to generate recommendations about the rewardstructure within engineering education, we are conducting virtual focus groups in October-November 2013. Earlier efforts to conduct face-to-face focus groups did not yielded meaningfulresults because it was difficult to engage the highly distributed target population. However,approximately half of the survey respondents indicated they would participate in online focusgroups to discuss the survey results. To address the shortcomings of previous efforts, we havedesigned a virtual focus group process that leverages the survey data, social media technology,and the idea generation software, IdeaScale. To determine effectiveness, we will evaluate thevirtual focus group process with a short questionnaire after each session. Additionally, theexternal evaluator to this project will monitor each session and record observations.This paper will report the survey and focus group results in full and will also provide the resultsfrom evaluating the process of conducting a virtual focus group. This abstract is submitted as a"Research Paper" but might also be considered in the "Other" category.

McMartin, F. P., & Holsted, S., & Morrill, J., & Tront, J. G. (2014, June), Conducting Virtual Focus Groups to Identify How Rewards Have Affected the Valuation of Technology in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20203

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