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How Just In Time Learning Should Become The Norm!

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovations in Civil Engineering Education III

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.649.1 - 15.649.12



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Paper Authors


Ronald Welch University of Texas, Tyler

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Ronald W. Welch is Professor and Chair for the Department of Civil Engineering at The
University of Texas at Tyler in Tyler, Texas. Until Jan 2007, Dr. Welch was at the United States Military Academy (USMA) where he held numerous leadership positions within the Civil Engineering Program and the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia. Ron Welch received a B.S. degree in Engineering Mechanics from USMA in 1982 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana IL in 1990 and 1999, respectively.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

How Just in Time Learning Should Become the Norm! Abstract

Many engineering courses present theory and derivations during class time to help demonstrate the beauty of engineering and how mathematics brings clearer understanding of principles. Occasionally some professors even work an in-class problem before assigning students homework to improve their understanding of course content. On closer observation of the students in these classes, a large number of students appear to be bored, day dreaming, or sleeping. It is that the content being presented is not important? Hardly! These students have not been motivated to want to understand the theory behind the many equations that they are using. Most are happy to just plug and chug through their assignments.

How can faculty motivate students to want to learn about the theory behind the equations they use? Just in time learning has been used by the author for a number of years as an insightful way to motivate these same students that other faculty say do not have any passion to learn engineering theory. The author starts most classes with a physical model and then an example problem. As the students become stuck and cannot solve the current problem with the skills developed up to that point, they desire the new tool required to solve the current problem at hand. They are now properly motivated to attack the theory in bite size chunks (just in time) to continue working on solving the problem at hand.

The author has been involved in a number of teaching workshops over the last eleven years and sits in each department faculty member’s classes twice each semester and has observed the improvement in student attention, focus, and concept understanding when faculty gradually move to a just in time model. The entire faculty team has observed the improvement in energy levels among the students as well as understanding during the lessons in which just in time learning has been used. The author will start with how just in time learning is applied to a Mechanics of Materials course as well as how the process is being applied throughout a civil engineering curriculum. Course assessment, student feedback, and how just in time learning links to student learning styles will be presented.

1.0 Introduction

What is just in time learning? As defined by Word Spy: “The acquisition of knowledge or skills as they are needed.”1 This definition sums up how many of the students currently in school appear to learn. In fact, first the use of laptop computers and now the use of Apps on phones are pushing this process to be the norm. When the author teaches a freshman Introduction to Engineering course, numerous students search their phones or laptops and provide insightful information to the conversation. Of course, the freshman engineering course is only an introduction and spends a lot of time introducing the history makers that led the charge to changing the world as we know it. How about technical courses?

So how long has this change in student learning been going on? As noted on the Word Spy site as the earliest citation, M. Granger Morgan made the following statement in his

Welch, R. (2010, June), How Just In Time Learning Should Become The Norm! Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16499

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