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Converting Existing Lecture Courses To Distance Learning

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Online and Web-based Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.321.1 - 15.321.14



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Paper Authors


Bridget Smyser Northeastern University

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Adjunct Professor,
Chemical Engineering
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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David DiBiasio Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Associate Professor and Department Head, Chemical Engineering
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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

Converting Existing Lecture Courses to Distance Learning Abstract

Increased enrollments, constrained budgets, and reductions in full-time faculty present new challenges for engineering departments. Contingent faculty (adjuncts and other part-time appointments) are increasingly recruited to staff critical courses. However, conflicting class and personnel schedules are a real barrier to maintaining high quality instruction. Blended learning structures offer a solution to this problem.

At our university the course Chemical Materials Science is usually taught as a traditional lecture course which meets 4 days per week. During the Fall 2008 quarter, the course was taught in a blended lecture/distance learning format. This format, formed to accommodate the schedule of the available adjunct instructor, met once per week for a lecture/discussion session. The remainder of the course information was presented via recorded online lectures and other online features via the Blackboard™ website system. Blended learning classes are fairly new to engineering, and in fact this was the first time any ChE course at this university was taught with an online component. Because of this we gathered information to determine both student perceptions of the amount of work involved, and instructor perceptions of the amount of extra preparation time. The course was received reasonably well by the students, although most would prefer more face-to-face interaction with the instructor. Recorded lectures in Interwise™, as well as organized and consistent information for the course topics were found to be very useful to the students. Other online tools such as discussion questions received mixed response from the students. Although there was a great deal of online administration necessary, it did not take an excessive amount of time to adapt an already existing course to this format. Students who actively engaged in the online activities such as a discussion board, the creation of group Wiki based reports, and ‘Concept Check’ quizzes performed better on exams, and had higher final grades than those who relied more on homework and the single weekly lecture to learn the material. The average overall course grade was 85%, which is comparable to similar classes taught in the traditional style. These results indicate that well-designed blended learning courses can accommodate scheduling issues, provide high-quality learning environments, and produce acceptable student learning outcomes compared to traditional face-to-face courses.


Chemical Materials Science is typically taught as a 4 lecture per week course. Student performance is evaluated via weekly homework and 2-3 exams per quarter. Past offerings of this and other similar materials science courses have included features such as lab experiments and open ended materials selection projects done in groups. These group projects typically involved written and/or oral reports in order to improve soft skills and allow promotive interaction between the students. Collaborative learning has been a key feature of many courses at our university, and has been used extensively in other materials science courses.1

Smyser, B., & DiBiasio, D. (2010, June), Converting Existing Lecture Courses To Distance Learning Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16176

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