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Module Based Freshman Engineering Course Development

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Design in Freshman Year

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.928.1 - 9.928.16



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Paper Authors

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Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

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Christopher Rowe

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

Session 1353

Module-based Freshman Engineering Course Development

Christopher J. Rowe, Anita Mahadevan-Jansen Vanderbilt University


The freshman year of engineering continues to be one of the most critical components of undergraduate curriculum development for engineering schools. There is an ongoing challenge in developing an introductory engineering course that meets the needs of the school/college as well as the students in an effective manner. A major complaint of students is that there is no formal mechanism that helps students make an informed decision on their choice of major until well into their curriculum. Approximately 40% of the first-year engineering students at Vanderbilt University are unsure of their major upon entering the university. In addition, often parents and students complain of the lack of "real world" engineering in the first year curriculum, which is true of many engineering schools. As a result, the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering has initiated a series of changes that radically affect the freshman engineering curriculum to be more innovative, competitive, and challenging. The remodeled introductory course in engineering fosters early and informed student decision regarding their declared majors, brings real world engineering problems into the classroom, and anchors the curriculum in the context of engineering problem solving.

The first major change involves the development of a module-based freshman course in engineering. In this course, students take a common module focused on engineering problem solving and computing for seven weeks. The general module is taught in the context of data management/analysis using different software packages. Based on these skills, discipline- specific modules were created for each engineering major offered at the Vanderbilt School of Engineering (VUSE). The general module is followed by two self-selected four-week, discipline- specific modules that focused on a current event or area of research. Each discipline-specific module was designed in the context of problem based learning with a fundamental set of criteria and deliverables, which include a grand challenge statement, a culminating activity/deliverable, a minimum of 3 assignments that apply the concepts of problem solving learned in module 1, oral presentations, design and technical writing amongst others.

Assessment and evaluation will be facilitated by surveys conducted of students and instructors across all sections to obtain feedback on the progress and efficacy of the course. Student-based assessment shows that this course was beneficial toward student confidence in choice of major and working knowledge of current events within that discipline. Instructor-based assessments shows that several improvements have to be made to better achieve the learning objectives of the course.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Mahadevan-Jansen, A., & Rowe, C. (2004, June), Module Based Freshman Engineering Course Development Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13180

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