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Learner Preferences and Continuing Engineering Education

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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

Continuing Professional Development Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1061.1 - 26.1061.19



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Paper Authors


Charles E. Baukal Jr. P.E. John Zink Co. LLC

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Charles E. Baukal, Jr. has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, an Ed.D., and a Professional Engineering License. He is the Director of the John Zink Institute which provides continuing professional development for engineers and technicians. He has worked in industry for nearly 35 years and as an adjunct for 30 years. He is the author/editor of 13 books on industrial combustion and an inventor on 11 U.S. patents.

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Lynna J. Ausburn PhD Oklahoma State University

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Dr. Lynna Ausburn is Professor Emerita of Occupational Education, College of Education, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. She holds a PhD in instructional media and technology from the University of Oklahoma. She has more than 30 years of experience in adult and workforce education in 19 countries. She also has an extensive list of publications and conference papers at state, national, and international levels, and has won several major awards and an Oklahoma Governor's citation for research and university teaching. Her current research interests include virtual reality in technical training, adult learning, and instructional strategies. Dr. Ausburn can be reached at

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Learner Preferences and Continuing Engineering EducationEffective continuing professional development (CPD) of engineers is critical to ensure properskills, procedures, and knowledge are learned for safe, efficient, and environmentally-friendlyoperations with minimal unplanned downtime. Research has shown that engineers have differentlearner preferences compared to the general population and yet continuing engineering education(CEE) is often designed for the latter.Learning strategy preference refers to skills or techniques an individual chooses to use toaccomplish a learning task. Using an instrument called ATLAS to measure this preference, threesuch strategies have been identified: Navigators, Problem Solvers, and Engagers. A meta-analysis of dozens of studies showed that the general population is approximately evenly splitamong these three strategies. However, engineers have been found to include statisticallysignificantly more Problem Solvers and fewer Engagers compared to the general population.This is consistent with profession characterizations that often describe engineers as problemsolvers.Verbal-visual preference refers to a learner’s preferred mode of obtaining information.Verbalizers prefer verbal information compared to visualizers who prefer to get their informationthrough images. In education, there are many types of multimedia used that may be categorizedas verbal (e.g., text and narration), static graphics (e.g., drawing or photograph), non-interactivedynamic graphics (e.g., animation or video), and interactive dynamic graphics (e.g., virtualreality). Engineers have been found to be much more visual than the general population andstrongly prefer graphical multimedia types compared to verbal types.Engineers prefer more problem solving and visual information than the typical learner. Despitethese strong learner preferences for engineers that differ from the general population, CPDcontent for engineers is often designed based on the preferences of the latter. This meanslearning for engineers is likely less than optimal and that motivation for learning may bereduced. This paper will report the results of ongoing surveys of learner preferences forengineers attending various CEE courses over the past three years. This learner preferenceinformation is critical for the effective instructional design of CEE content to enhance learningand increase the motivation to learn.

Baukal, C. E., & Ausburn, L. J. (2015, June), Learner Preferences and Continuing Engineering Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24398

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