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Development and Implementation of Interactive Virtual Laboratories to Help Students Learn Threshold Concepts in Thermodynamics – Year 1

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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

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.410.1 - 24.410.13



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Paper Authors


Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from UC San Diego and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in Chemical Engineering. He currently has research activity in areas related engineering education and is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher-level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. His research interests particularly focus on what prevents students from being able to integrate and extend the knowledge developed in specific courses in the core curriculum to the more complex, authentic problems and projects they face as professionals. Dr. Koretsky is one of the founding members of the Center for Lifelong STEM Education Research at OSU.

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Development and Implementation of Interactive Virtual Laboratories to Help Students Learn Threshold Concepts in Thermodynamics – Year 1Thermodynamics is a difficult subject for chemical and biological engineering students to master. Onereason for the difficulty is the diverse and challenging set of threshold concepts that they must coherentlysynthesize and be able to apply in a diverse range of contexts. Based on our experience and from reportsin the literature, we have identified a set of six threshold concepts we propose are critical for mastery ofthermodynamics. The goal of this TUES project is to develop a corresponding set of Interactive VirtualLaboratories to help students identify and learn these six threshold concepts. The intent of this project isnot to develop a comprehensive list of all the threshold concepts needed to master thermodynamics.Rather we would like to examine a subset of threshold concepts and illustrate, first, that they can form adesign basis for development of Interactive Virtual Laboratories where students can actively experiencemultiple representations, and, second, that experience with these virtual laboratories helps students learn.The following specific project objectives have been constructed to achieve this goal: 1. Validate a set of six proposed threshold concepts in thermodynamics. 2. Develop Interactive Virtual Laboratories to provide students multiple representations and help them experientially explore these threshold concepts. Develop the virtual laboratories based on engineering education best practices and multimedia development principles to provide students structured engagement, such as incorporating the “predict, observe, explain” technique. 3. Deliver the Interactive Virtual Laboratories in classes using the studio architecture recently implemented at the home institution. 4. Assess the perception and effectiveness of the Interactive Virtual Laboratories through a. Classroom observation, student surveys, and instructor and student focus groups b. Measurement of learning gains on the Throttling Valve question and the Technician question, two conceptual questions that have been historically difficult for students 5. Incorporate the Interactive Virtual Laboratories as resources in the AIChE Concept Warehouse so that they are broadly available for engineering and science instructors to use.The Interactive Virtual Laboratories are being developed based on best practices in engineeringeducation pedagogy and sound multimedia development principles. Year 1 progress will be reportedincluding the following. Beta versions of four laboratories have been completed and are available to theengineering community through integration into the AIChE Concept Warehouse, another NSF supportedproject. Two laboratories have been investigated in a clinical study and then have been piloted in athermodynamics studio class of approximately 150 students.

Koretsky, M. (2014, June), Development and Implementation of Interactive Virtual Laboratories to Help Students Learn Threshold Concepts in Thermodynamics – Year 1 Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20301

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