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Lessons Learned from a Distance Learning Research Methods Course Co-Taught by Clemson, University of Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Panel on Innovative Graduate Education Concepts: Organized by the National Institute of Aerospace

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1008.1 - 22.1008.12



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Paper Authors

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Amy E. Landis University of Pittsburgh


Melissa M. Bilec University of Pittsburgh

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Melissa M. Bilec, an Assistant Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, studies and teaches engineering issues related to sustainability, green design, and construction. She focuses largely on the practical aspects of sustainable building, from the life-cycle and cost benefit of “green” materials to lending civic initiatives a greener touch and conducting metrics research to understand and evaluate high-performance green buildings. She translates her work in these areas—as well as that of other Pitt sustainable engineers—into student projects as the assistant director of education outreach in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, Pitt’s center for green design.

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Leidy Klotz Clemson University


Annie R. Pearce Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Annie Pearce is an Assistant Professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech specializing in sustainable facilities and infrastructure systems. Throughout her career, Annie has worked with practitioners in both public and private sectors to implement sustainability as part of building planning, design, construction, and operations. As a LEED Accredited Professional, Annie brings the latest in green building methods, technologies, and best practices to the classroom. Her specific areas of interest include metrics of sustainability for built facilities, green building materials and systems, cost modeling to support sustainability implementation, and in situ performance of sustainable facility technologies. She has served as a lead investigator for more than U.S.$2 million in research related to sustainable facilities and infrastructure for sponsors including the U.S. Army, Air Force, Naval Facilities Command, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Army Environmental Policy Institute, the National Science Foundation, the USDA Forest Service, and multiple private corporations and state agencies. Annie has represented organizational sustainability initiatives at over 50 conferences and symposia both nationally and internationally, and has developed and taught lectures and courses of varying lengths on sustainable facilities and infrastructure reaching hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students and over a thousand practicing professionals around the world. Along with others in the Myers-Lawson School, Annie is pioneering a new paradigm of construction research, education, and outreach that combines and synergizes inputs from stakeholders in the construction industry with new technologies and research efforts to promote sustainable innovations. For more information, visit Annie’s web site at

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Lessons  learned  from  a  Distance  Learning  Research  Methods  Course  co-­taught  by  Clemson,  University  of  Pittsburgh,  and  Virginia  Tech    Amy  E.  Landis*,  Melissa  M.  Bilec*,  Leidy  Klotz$,  Annie  Pearce#        *Assistant  Professors,  Department  of  Civil  and  Environmental  Engineering,  University  of  Pittsburgh.    $Assistant  Professor,  Department  of  Civil  Engineering,  Clemson  University  #Assistant  Professor,  Myers-­‐Lawson  School  of  Construction,  Virginia  Tech    Abstract  submitted  to  American  Society  for  Engineering  Education  2011  Annual  Conference  and  Exposition  June  26  –  29,  2011  –  Vancouver,  BC,  Canada    A  cross-­‐institution  research  methods  course  was  developed  to  provide  students  conducting  thesis  projects  with  an  introduction  to  research  development  and  many  different  types  of  qualitative  and  quantitative  research  methods.  The  course  draws  on  the  experiences  of  a  diverse  group  of  young  faculty  to  present  students  with  a  broad  range  of  best  practices  and  experiences  in  research  methods.  Unique  to  this  distance  learning  course  is  the  incorporation  of  team-­‐based  active  learning  activities  in  every  lecture.  In  this  active  learning  course,  students  learn  quantitative  research  methods  by  practicing  the  set  of  procedures  in  class.  Students  are  expected  to  incorporate  their  research  topics  as  examples  throughout  the  class.  Topics  in  research  methods  include:  defining  research  problems,  conducting  a  literature  review,  qualitative  and  quantitative  data  analysis,  developing  experimental  designs,  survey  design,  visual  presentation  of  results,  research  ethics,  and  the  process  of  writing  a  peer-­‐reviewed  journal  article.  The  course  culminates  in  students’  research  proposal.      This  paper  discusses  the  lessons  learned  from  a  cross-­‐institution  course  collaboration  and  presents  the  findings  from  student  assessments  and  surveys.  We  discuss  the  effectiveness  of  the  cross-­‐university  course  on  different  types  of  students,  from  new  to  senior  PhD  students  conducting  thesis  research  to  masters  students  conducting  term  projects  on  a  wide  range  of  civil,  environmental,  sustainability,  and  construction  research  topics.  We  also  examine  the  effectiveness  of  distance  active  learning  and  peer-­‐teaching  during  the  course.  Half  of  the  students  at  the  Pitt  location  are  in  their  second  or  third  year  of  graduate  studies,  and  they  take  an  active  role  in  mentoring  and  teaching.        

Landis, A. E., & Bilec, M. M., & Klotz, L., & Pearce, A. R. (2011, June), Lessons Learned from a Distance Learning Research Methods Course Co-Taught by Clemson, University of Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18270

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