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Development and Preliminary Assessment of an Open-source, Online Homework Suite for Advanced Mechanics of Materials using WeBWorK

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Software and Related Tools for Teaching and Course Efficiencies

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Michael K. Swanbom PE Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. Swanbom is a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering. He develops innovative, hands-on, practical content for both high school and university curricula.

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Madeline Genevieve Carlisle Collins Louisiana Tech University

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Madeline is a recipient of the SEAS Distinguished Fellowship at the University of Virginia. She will begin work in the Rotating Machinery and Controls lab in the Fall of 2017. Madeline enjoys developing online materials for Engineering Mechanics courses including Statics, Mechanics of Materials, and Machine Element Design.

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Katie Evans Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. Katie Evans is the Entergy Corp LP&L/NOPSI #3 & #4 Associate Professor of Mathematics and the Academic Director of Mathematics and Statistics and Industrial Engineering programs. She is the Director of the Integrated STEM Education Research Center (ISERC) and the Director of Louisiana Tech’s Office for Women in Science and Engineering (OWISE). She earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics and M.S. in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Her research interests include distributed parameter control modeling and simulation, dynamic modeling of physical systems, and STEM education. She has published 20 peer-reviewed publications in these areas, and her research has been funded by the NSF, AFRL, and LA-BOR. She also serves as an Associate Editor for the American Control Conference and the Conference on Decision and Control, two premier conferences in the controls community. She is a member of the IEEE, SIAM, and ASEE.

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In an era of declining university resources, many engineering programs are turning to interactive, online homework systems as a means of providing immediate feedback to students without costing excessive time and effort from faculty or teaching assistants. Unfortunately, the experience the authors have had with online homework systems provided by textbook publishers has been disappointing, including issues such as errors in the embedded solutions and sparse or incomplete coverage of textbook content. Also, access to such systems often requires an additional expense incurred by students.

The authors have developed a new suite of problems for use in an Advanced Mechanics of Materials course intended for Mechanical Engineering students. These problems have been developed in a free, open-source interactive homework delivery system called WeBWorK, a tool that has been adopted by over 1,000 mathematics departments worldwide. The authors’ institution has extensive experience using this system for mathematics and has developed, adopted, and published a suite of problems in WeBWorK for its integrated sophomore sequence of engineering courses – Circuits, Statics and Mechanics of Materials, and Thermodynamics.

This paper describes the WeBWorK system and outlines the breadth and depth of the problem suite that has been created for Advanced Mechanics of Materials. Among the topics covered are: material processing, properties and selection, numerous three-dimensional structures, combined loading and resulting stresses, static failure theories, fatigue analysis and design, and many others. Guidance is also included for faculty interested in adopting WeBWorK for their courses.

A preliminary study of the effectiveness of the new problem suite is also presented. Four homework sets were selected for the study. For each homework set, the class was divided into two groups randomly; one group of students was given access to the system, and the other was given the same problems in a paper-only format. All students were then given the same quiz so that possible differences in learning between the two groups could be identified. Students were also surveyed to gather their opinions on the new suite and its effectiveness in helping them learn the course material. The results of this preliminary study are presented and discussed.

Swanbom, M. K., & Collins, M. G. C., & Evans, K. (2017, June), Development and Preliminary Assessment of an Open-source, Online Homework Suite for Advanced Mechanics of Materials using WeBWorK Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28156

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