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Online Labs and DEI in Introduction to Thermodynamics Course

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Energy Conversion, Conservation and Nuclear Engineering Division (ECCNE) Technical Session 4

Tagged Divisions

Energy Conversion and Conservation and Nuclear Engineering Division (ECCNE)

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Paper Authors


Teodora Rutar Shuman Seattle University

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Professor Teodora Rutar Shuman is the Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Seattle University. She is the PI on the NSF RED grant titled “IUSE/PFE:RED: Revolutionizing Engineering Education through Industry Immersion and a Focus on Identity.” Her research also includes NOx formation in lean-premixed combustion and electro-mechanical systems for sustainable processing of microalgae. Her work is published in venues including the Journal of Engineering Education, IEEE Transactions on Education, International Journal of Engineering Education, Transactions of ASME, Chemical Engineering Journal, Bioresource Technology, Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, and Combustion and Flame. She is a member of the ASEE, ASME, and the Algae Biomass Organization. Dr. Shuman served as Chair for the ASEE Energy Conversion and Conservation Division.

She received a Dipl. Ing. degree in mechanical engineering from Belgrade University and an M.S.M.E. and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. She has held the title of Paccar Professor and is an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington.

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Can online Labs improve student learning in comparison to hands-on labs? Do they have space in our curriculum in both online and in-person lab offerings? What can and what cannot be included in online labs? Can some of the lessons learned be applied to improve in-person lab offerings? Can online labs improve the sense of inclusion and belonging in the profession? These questions will be addressed in the paper. The paper will describe the 6 labs that were conducted 100% online in a 3rd-year (introductory) Thermodynamics course in a mid-size comprehensive university’s mechanical engineering program. The course comprises 4 hours of lectures and 2 hours of labs per week in a 10-week term. The lectures are offered in a flipped format; lectures are pre-recorded, and class periods are used for problem-solving and content clarifications. Lab periods are used for laboratory exercises and for project check-ins and virtual tours. The labs contain pre-lab assignments and in-lab exercises. Pre-labs are part of in-person and online lab offerings and help students prepare for in-the-lab brainstorming. The in-the-lab work includes watching a video of the lab components, brainstorming the solutions, watching the video of the lab conducted by the faculty, and doing a group analysis of the results. The learning outcomes associated with the online labs are the same as in-person labs: 1. Design an experiment to gain necessary information about a system 2. Analyze and interpret experimental data 3. Draw conclusions based on data analysis and engineering judgment

Data used to assess the outcomes includes lab reports, exam performance, student surveys, and student perceptions of teaching. The results suggest that watching the videos instead of conducting the labs themselves allows for extra time for in-the-lab analysis of the results. As a result, the quality of lab reports is higher. Lab periods also serve the purpose of increasing inclusion and a sense of belonging to the profession of all students. In-class exercises are designed with that purpose and will be described in the paper. And that may be the biggest outcome of this course. Lessons learned and some of the online materials were implemented in the subsequent in-person lab offering. That process helped determined what can and what cannot be applied from the online to the in-person lab offerings and provides data for instructional effectiveness in both settings.

Shuman, T. R. (2023, June), Online Labs and DEI in Introduction to Thermodynamics Course Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43785

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