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Development of WeBWorK Prelab Problem Sets to Support Student Learning

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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

Tools to Enhance Student Learning of Undergraduate Engineering Content

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Sheena Miao Ying Tan Simon Fraser University

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Sheena is currently a PhD student in mathematics education at Simon Fraser University. She was previously a secondary mathematics teacher in Singapore and has worked in the Ministry of Education, Singapore. She was the research assistant for the project to develop and implement WeBWorK prelab problems in the course SEE 310, to enhance students' learning.

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Taco Niet Ph.D., P.Eng. School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, Simon Fraser University

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Taco is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering at Simon Fraser University. Taco’s research deals with energy systems modelling, energy storage technologies, integration of renewable/variable technologies and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Focusing on addressing systemic challenges in the energy system, much of his work is with with emerging economies to help them address the challenges of building a decarbonized energy system.

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Kamaria Kuling Simon Fraser University

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Kamaria is currently a masters' student in the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering at Simon Fraser University, studying energy systems modelling. She previously completed her BSc in Physics from the University of British Columbia.

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Student prelab assignments are often poorly completed or copied from peers and therefore are of uncertain benefit to student learning. To enhance student learning, and ensure that students cannot copy directly from their peers, a set of prelab problems were developed for SEE 310: Integrated Energy Solutions II using the WeBWorK online homework system. SEE 310 covers a range of energy system modelling tools and the labs are computer based labs where students explore the strengths and weaknesses of different energy models. Each student was given a unique set of parameters for their prelab problems, and through WeBWorK, students were given unlimited attempts to complete them and were provided with immediate feedback on the accuracy of their solutions. Since each student had unique problem parameters, they were encouraged to work together to understand the problems and share approaches rather than solutions as each student would have to solve the problem themselves for their unique set of parameters. A series of lab observations, a perception survey and a small focus group were used to evaluate the effectiveness of these prelab problem sets, and to determine if they provide better support to student learning. Although there were some unprecedented challenges with conducting lab observations and focus group due to the course moving entirely online for 2020 as a result of COVID-19, both the qualitative and quantitative data gathered suggest that the prelab problem sets supported student learning, helped them to be better prepared for the lab sessions and enhanced their understanding of the lab concepts.

Tan, S. M. Y., & Niet, T., & Kuling, K. (2021, July), Development of WeBWorK Prelab Problem Sets to Support Student Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36976

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