Asee peer logo

Full Paper: PathFinder: Affordable and Effective Web-books for First Year Engineering Courses

Download Paper |


2018 FYEE Conference


Glassboro, New Jersey

Publication Date

July 24, 2018

Start Date

July 24, 2018

End Date

July 26, 2018

Conference Session

Technical Session II

Tagged Topic

FYEE Conference Sessions

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jess W. Everett Rowan University

visit author page

Jess W. Everett has worked in four distinct areas: waste management operations research, contaminated site assessment and remediation, education innovation, and sustainable engineering. He has employed a wide variety of techniques, including computer modeling, laboratory experiments, field testing, and surveys. His current research focuses on energy conservation, alternative energy generation, engineering learning communities, and hybrid courses (courses with classroom and on-line aspects).

visit author page


Scott Steiner Rowan University

visit author page

Dr. Scott Streiner is an assistant professor in the Experiential Engineering Education Department (ExEEd) at Rowan University. He received his Ph.D in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, with a focus in engineering education. His research interests include engineering global competency, curricula and assessment; pedagogical innovations through game-based and playful learning; spatial skills development and engineering ethics education. His funded research explores the nature of global competency development by assessing how international experiences improve the global perspectives of engineering students. Dr. Streiner has published papers and given presentations in global engineering education at several national conferences. Scott is an active member in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) both locally and nationally, as well as the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE).

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper describes the implementation of PathFinder (, a website that facilitates the creation and dissemination of affordable web-books for college students. The purpose of this paper is to describe its implementation in an introduction-to-engineering curriculum at a public university in the north east, and to discuss the use of Pathfinder (or similar websites) in first and second year engineering courses in general.

The PathFinder website allows professors to create, maintain, and access an electronic database of engineering topic folders. Each folder contains information on a single topic and may contain an article and other content, e.g., variables, equations, images, videos, exercises, and references. Articles contain links to content in other folders. Chapters are special articles that aggregate content from multiple folders to communicate complex topics. A PathFinder web-book contains multiple chapters with student exercises for each chapter. Each chapter is easily customized for individual institutions. Thus, professors can easily create additional articles, chapters, and exercises.

When a student accesses a web-book chapter, PathFinder assembles content on the fly from the latest and most up-to-date information in its database. Students easily navigate chapters by scrolling or using links to jump to any heading, table, figure, equation, or example. Chapters are associated with BEFORE and AFTER exercises. Students complete BEFORE exercises before the professor covers the associated chapter in class; thus, PathFinder promotes a flipped classroom. Students complete AFTER exercises after a chapter is covered in class, i.e., AFTER exercises are homework. Exercises can be multiple-choice or calculation-based. They are chosen from banks, so each student gets a different set of exercises. PathFinder randomly selects the input values of calculation-based exercises, so even when two students get the same exercise they cannot simply copy answers. Exercises are graded automatically, freeing graders to spend more effort on higher-level assignments, e.g., reports.

PathFinder provides web-books to three introductory, multidisciplinary engineering courses, each with 16 or 17 sections. This paper outlines the creation of PathFinder content, the implementation of PathFinder in courses, the merits of its use, and how it or similar web-book systems can be adopted by first year engineering programs.

Everett, J. W., & Steiner, S. (2018, July), Full Paper: PathFinder: Affordable and Effective Web-books for First Year Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2018 FYEE Conference, Glassboro, New Jersey. 10.18260/1-2--31410

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015