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Online Homework: Does it Help or Hurt in the Long Run?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Innovative Use of Technology and the Internet in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.952.1 - 24.952.6



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Paper Authors


Julian Ly Davis University of Southern Indiana

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Dr. Julian L. Davis is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) and holds his Ph.D from Virginia Tech in Engineering Mechanics. He began teaching mechanics courses in 2007 and has continued every year since his appointment at USI in 2010. His area of research is biomechanics and before his appointment at USI he served as a post-doctoral researcher at University of Massachusetts where he taught System Dynamics.

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Thomas McDonald University of Southern Indiana

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Tom McDonald is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Department at the University of Southern Indiana. Prior to joining USI he taught for six years in the School of Technology at Eastern Illinois University. He earned his BSIE and MSIE degrees in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University and his PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech.
His research and teaching interests primarily include lean manufacturing, discrete event simulation and modeling, and engineering economy. Tom has been involved in lean manufacturing and modeling of production lines since 1999 and has worked with private organizations such as Danaher/Kollmorgen and AT&T.

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Online Homework: Does it help or hurt in the long run? Software packages that allow for homework to be submitted through the web haveprovided an interesting opportunity for both students and faculty. Students are given anopportunity to practice solving problems with a guided solution process and can receive instantassessment regarding their solutions. Software and book choice can mitigate time savings for theprofessor, requiring problems be manually coded, but overall the use of software decreases timerequired to administer the homework. From a faculty perspective, online homework softwaresimplifies the assigning and automated grading simplifies the homework assessment. However, we propose the use of online homework software does not instill theimportance of presenting a logical and organized solution process. The software lacks the abilityto assess a student's ability to communicate technical information effectively. The use of onlinehomework can be beneficial in developing a solving process and retention of material, but mayalso be vastly detrimental for classes that require illustrating an organized solution: mostengineering classes. Preliminary work in assessment of "presentation of an organized solutionprocess" and it's correlation with the final course grade has been done in a sophomore mechanicsclass (dynamics). Early data does not support this hypothesis (p = 0.408); however, these datawere included within a component of a scoring rubric. In the future, presentation of work will bea category in the rubric so that a more complete analysis can be done. Anecdotal evidence(discussion with colleagues) regarding "presentation of an organized solution" in the classes thatfollow these sophomore mechanics courses, illustrate the opposite. We suggest that, in the field of engineering, it may be best to use introductory classes todevelop and establish the presentation and organization skills on which other classes can buildalong with a problem solving process. In addition, we suggest a longitudinal study should bedeveloped to assess the effectiveness of online homework on a student's ability to technicallycommunicate (through sketches, free body diagrams, energy flow diagrams) in advancedclasses.

Davis, J. L., & McDonald, T. (2014, June), Online Homework: Does it Help or Hurt in the Long Run? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22885

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