Asee peer logo

Online Delivery of a Project-based Introductory Engineering Course

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

FPD VI: Presenting "All the Best" of the First-year Programs Division

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1002.1 - 25.1002.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Christa R. James-Byrnes University of Wisconsin, Barron County

visit author page

Christa James-Byrnes is an Associate Professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Colleges. James-Byrnes is the Department Chair for the Computer Science, Engineering, Physics, and Astronomy Department for the UW, Colleges. James-Byrnes has worked in the road construction industry, taught at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., in the Construction Management program, and has been with the UW, Colleges, for 12 years. She obtained her Ph.D. from Purdue University, her master's from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and her bachelor's from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She currently lives in Rice Lake, Wis., with her husband Mike and her two children Jamie and Jessie.

visit author page


Mark H. Holdhusen University of Wisconsin, Marathon County

visit author page

Mark Holdhusen is an Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Marathon County. He began at UWMC in Jan. 2005 after completing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Holdhusen received a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota in August of 1999. He currently lives in Wausau, Wis., with his wife (Elona), son (Milo), and daughter (Odelia).

visit author page

Download Paper |


Online Delivery of a Project-Based Introductory Engineering CourseEngineering education is increasingly moving to nontraditional delivery modes, especially onlinedelivery. With this movement comes the challenge to meet the quality offered by traditionalface-to-face instruction. In the online environment, it is often difficult to present complexengineering concepts. Also, the logistics of implementing team design projects into an onlinecourse is very complicated. Typically, introductory engineering courses address both complexengineering topics as well as team-based design projects. This paper reports on an onlineintroductory engineering course that includes team-based design projects.A team of engineering instructors initially examined the traditional version of the course todevelop a list of learning outcomes and topics to be covered in the online course. The deliveryof each topic was chosen to achieve the desired learning outcomes given the constraints andpossibilities of the online environment. A student assessment was associated with most topics,consisting of papers, spreadsheets, worksheets, discussions, online quizzes, etc. In addition,video interviews of two engineers discussing the relevance of the topics were included.Team design projects are a crucial aspect to introductory engineering courses and could not beomitted due to the challenges of the delivery mode. The team decided on two team designprojects for the course. The first was to design a mousetrap car where the learning outcomesincluded teamwork, the design method, technical writing, engineering sketching, and projectmanagement. The second project was the design of a wind farm to meet the electrical needs of acampus. This project’s learning outcomes included teamwork, data analysis within the designmethod, project management, and preparing technical documents and presentations. For theseprojects, students were able to meet synchronously with each other using web meeting softwareat any time.The course was offered online in the same semester it was offered using the traditional format.This offered a direct comparison between the two delivery modes for the course. The coursecontent was nearly identical between the two modes. All the homework and projects were thesame for each section. Several assessment tools were used to compare the delivery modes. Thefirst assessment tool used to compare the two sections was student grades on assignments,projects, and the final exam. Also, a qualitative assessment of the two design projects wasconducted. In addition, the students in each section took two surveys. The first survey wasgiven after the first design project and focused on how the course structure aided in teamwork onthe project. The second survey occurred at the end of the course and focused on both the finalproject as well as the course as a whole. The final assessment tool was the instructors’perception of the course.In the initial offering, the online section performed better on the assignments and projects thanthe traditional face-to-face section showing the online environment was at least as successful atdelivering the course content. Based on the student surveys, the perceptions of the course bystudents were similar for both sections. Both instructors felt the course was successful.

James-Byrnes, C. R., & Holdhusen, M. H. (2012, June), Online Delivery of a Project-based Introductory Engineering Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21759

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015