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Design-Based Research: Students Seeking Co-op in New Educational Model

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Technical Session 3 - Co-op Recruitment and Factors Affecting Success

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Dennis Rogalsky Minnesota State University, Mankato


Bart M. Johnson Itasca Community College

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Bart Johnson is the Provost of Itasca Community College. He is active in engineering education research and is a former engineering instructor and program coordinator at Itasca. Dr. Johnson is a co-founder of the ABET Innovation Award recognized Iron Range Engineering program. Prior to Itasca, he was a design engineer in John Deere's Construction and Forestry Division.

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Ronald R. Ulseth Iron Range Engineering

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Ron Ulseth directs and instructs in the Iron Range Engineering program in Virginia, Minnesota and he teaches in the Itasca Community College engineering program in Grand Rapids, MN. He was instrumental in growing the Itasca program from 10 students in 1992 to 160 students in 2010. In 2009, he worked with a national development team of engineering educators to develop the 100% PBL curriculum used in the Iron Range model. He has successfully acquired and managed over $10 million in educational grants including as PI on 7 grants from NSF. He has been in the classroom, teaching more than 20 credits per year to engineering students for more than 30 years. His specific areas of expertise are in active learning, faculty development, and learning community development. He has been awarded the 2012 Progress Minnesota award, 2012 Labovitz Entrepreneurialism award, and 2012 Innovator of the Year award from the Rural Community College Alliance all for his work in developing the Iron Range Engineering program. His degrees are in civil engineering (B.S., University of North Dakota), mechanical engineering (M.S., University of Central Florida), and engineering education (Ph.D., Aalborg University). He is licensed as a professional engineer in the state of Minnesota.

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This research paper continues a longitudinal implementation of a design-based research (DBR) study/implementation for a new co-op centric educational model. This is a benchmarking study by the university program.

The new model is an adaptation of two emerging world-leading engineering educational models, as recognized by a 2018 MIT report, Charles Sturt University (Australia) and Iron Range Engineering (Minnesota). Adapted from Charles Sturt is the co-op model whereby students spend an initial on-campus period and then combine co-op work placements and on-line learning all the way to degree completion. Adapted from Iron Range are the curricular strategies that empower a graduate with a balanced technical, professional, and design set of capabilities.

More specifically, in this new model, students complete their lower-division pre-engineering requirements at a community college anywhere in the U.S., then transfer into the model for a one-semester intensive on-ground experience where they acquire the self-directed learning and professional skills needed to thrive in a co-op placement. Upon completion of this semester, students enter 24 months of co-op placement/on-line learning, returning to the institution after 12 months and 24 months for one week examination periods.

In design-based research, two iterative cycles take place simultaneously and interface to provide knowledge to one another. One cycle is the design of a new program (or similar implementation), the other cycle is the research study. The needs of the design cycle result in a research question. The research cycle includes literature review, data acquisition, analysis, evaluation, and findings. Out of the findings come recommendations for continuous improvement in the program design. DBR is a form of action research, wherein the researchers are integral in the program design phases.

This longitudinal study began in 2017 at the beginning of the new program's ideation. The most recent published results addressed research question: "Will students enroll in the new model?". The program began in August 2019 with the first group of 20 students attending the on-ground experience. The research question for this paper will address the process taken by students and the program for the acquisition of the first co-op employment placement. In other words, "How do XXXX program student engineers acquire their first co-op placement?".

Data will come from the program curriculum regarding how students were prepared for the job-search process and what scaffolding was provided, from the specifics of the searches (how many positions did each student apply for, how many interviews, how many offers, average pay, etc.), from interviews of the students regarding their experiences.

The findings of the research will feed back into the program for the second cohort of 50 students which starts in August 2020.

Rogalsky, D., & Johnson, B. M., & Ulseth, R. R. (2020, June), Design-Based Research: Students Seeking Co-op in New Educational Model Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34398

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