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Design-Based Research: Students Seeking Co-Op in Refined Educational Model

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Paper Authors


Dennis Rogalsky P.E. Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Dennis Rogalsky is excited to be part of the faculty for the IRE Bell program and share in this innovative approach to engineering education. Dr. Rogalsky’s degrees are in chemical engineering and he has twenty years of industry experience providing process control and automation solutions in petrochemical facilities. His career has blended educational and engineering experiences and he looks forward to teaching and research opportunities with the IRE Bell program and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dennis is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Washington.

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Ronald Ulseth P.E. Iron Range Engineering

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Ron Ulseth is the director of the Iron Range Engineering Bell program and a founder of Iron Range Engineering. His other appointments include as External Associate Professor at the Aalborg University UNESCO Center for Problem Based Learning in Denmark and as an unlimited full-time instructor in the Itasca Community College (Minnesota) engineering program. He has been in the classroom, teaching more than 20 credits per year for more than 30 years. A retired Commander as an Engineering Officer in the US Navy reserve; he is also 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 recently recognized (by a 2018 MIT report) emerging world-leading engineering educational models, 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 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 and continued throughout the development of the program. The program began in August 2019 with the first group of 20 students attending the engineering development phase. Our research tracked their co-op placement experience to understand key success factors. In August 2020, the second group of 33 students started the engineering development phase. For this paper, the research question will again focus on 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?". This second iteration will look to identify benefits from changes made to the process following our initial results.

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.), as well from interviews of the students regarding their experiences.

The findings of the research will feed back into the program for continued improvement with future cohorts of students.

Rogalsky, D., & Ulseth, R. (2021, July), Design-Based Research: Students Seeking Co-Op in Refined Educational Model Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36925

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