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Introduction of Reusable Learning Objects in a First-year Materials Science and Engineering Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 3

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Page Numbers

26.1033.1 - 26.1033.17



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Paper Authors


Isabelle Dutil University of Toronto

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Isabelle earned her MHSc in Clinical Engineering in 2014 and her BASc in Materials Science and Engineering in 2012, both from the University of Toronto. Isabelle's interest is in improving student engagement and retention in undergraduate engineering education.

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Varuna Prakash University of Toronto


Jun Nogami University of Toronto

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Jun Nogami is the Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto. He has a strong interest in engineering education that stems from the differences that he has observed in Engineering vs Physics pedagogy.

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Scott Ramsay University of Toronto

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Scott Ramsay is currently a lecturer and Adjunct Professor Scott is currently an Adjunct Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto, in Toronto, Canada, and a registered professional engineer in Ontario. Scott earned his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2007. Scott's current primary academic interests are in improving the quality of undergraduate engineering education through the use of various reusable learning objects. Scott has taught extensively in Material Science, teaching courses ranging from introductory materials science to thermodynamics, diffusion, materials selection, manufacturing, biomaterials, and building science.

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Introduction of Reusable Learning Objects in First Year Materials Science and Engineering CourseReusable learning objects (RLO) were introduced into the introductory materials engineeringcourse for first year students at the University of Toronto. These RLO were specificallydesigned to address the topic of fracture mechanics, including fracture toughness and stressconcentration. The RLOs included: 1. Online “Khan Academy Style videos (KSV)” ,2. Exampleproblem videos by graduate students, 3. Cornell notes, notetaking framework handouts, 4.Tempered glass lecture demonstration, 5. Online homework problems and 6. New in-class slidesfor lectures. At the end of the first semester of new interventions, students were asked toparticipate in a survey to gauge the rate of intervention uptake as well as general perceivedusefulness (n=118). The KSVs had the greatest uptake rate with 63% of respondents reportingthat they used the intervention. The Cornell notes had the lowest uptake rate (4%). When askedabout perceived usefulness of interventions, 84% of students agreed that the tempered glassdemonstration and new fracture lecture slides were most useful to their learning.Two focus groups (n=8; 4 students per group) were conducted at the end of the Fall 2013semester in order to better uncover learning barriers/benefits of the RLO and gathersupplementary qualitative data on the interventions. Students expressed that live demonstrations(tempered glass demonstration) were both engaging and better for concept retention. They didnot find the Cornell notes to be useful, but instead preferred to take their own notes freehand.This data corroborated the survey results.The research team hypothesized that with the uptake of these interventions, student performanceon exam questions related to fracture mechanics would improve in comparison to previous years.Data from seven semesters prior to the introduction of the six interventions was collected andcompared to the Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 semesters. An average of two fracture questions wasposed each semester. Data showed that there was no significant difference in studentperformance on fracture exam questions following the introduction of the RLO.These results show that there is room in introductory materials engineering courses forinnovative tools such as reusable learning objects to better address different learning styles.Based on these survey and focus group responses, further adjustments will be made to thecurriculum to better meet student expectations and needs.

Dutil, I., & Prakash, V., & Nogami, J., & Ramsay, S. (2015, June), Introduction of Reusable Learning Objects in a First-year Materials Science and Engineering Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24370

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