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Project-Based Learning: Contrasting Experience Between Traditional Face-to-Face Instruction and Virtual Instruction

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Virtual Instruction in the First Year II

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Jaya Dofe California State University, Fullerton

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Dr. Jaya Dofe is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton in the Department of Computer Engineering. She teaches computer engineering and general engineering courses at the freshman, junior, and senior levels. Her work focuses on hardware security and trust. In engineering education, she is interested in project-based learning. Dr. Dofe received her PH.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of New Hampshire in 2018.

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Sudarshan T. Kurwadkar California State University, Fullerton Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sudarshan Kurwadkar is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at California State University, Fullerton. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and a Board-Certified Environmental Engineer. During his academic career, he has received numerous awards, scholarships, and fellowships. He won the Teaching Excellence Award, 2018 Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities Award, Faculty Advisor of Distinction 2020, 2019 ASCE Outstanding Faculty Advisor in the State of California, and 2020 L. Donald Shield Award for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities. He was awarded numerous summer faculty fellowships with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Air Force Institute of Technology - Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He is currently on sabbatical working at the US Environmental Protection Agency. He is a Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation-funded $1.5 Million grant to enhance freshman and sophomore engineering students' learning experiences. His research is in the areas of fate and transport of organic and inorganic pollutants in the environment.

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The Introduction to engineering (EGGN-100) is a project-based course offered every fall semester to first-year students with undecided engineering majors at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). The primary objective of this course is to provide project-based learning (PBL) and introduce these students to major projects in Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Computer Engineering projects so that they can make an informed decision about their major. The PBL is an active learning method that aims to engage students in acquiring knowledge and skills through real-world experiences and well-planned project activities in engineering disciplines. The course comprises four team-based unique projects related to Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Computer Engineering. The project involves using a variety of engineering tools like AutoCAD, Multisim, and Arduino platforms. For the first time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hands-on project-based EGGN-100 course was offered virtually. In this research, we document the learning experiences of students who attended EGGN-100 in a traditional face-to-face mode of instruction and students who participated in the same course in a virtual instruction mode. Surveys conducted during seemingly different modes of instruction show varying levels of satisfaction among students. Of the students who attended the course in traditional and instructional instruction mode, 69% and 90% responded that discipline-specific projects enabled them to make an informed decision, and PBL helped them choose their preferred major. Even the percentage of students who believed the PBL helped them make an informed decision about their major, they like to do more hands-on projects and prefer to attend the classes on campus. Students rated higher satisfaction in virtual instructional mode primarily due to the availability of video lectures, self-paced learning, and readily accessible project simulations. Learning by doing would have bought out the challenges and minor nuances of designing and executing an engineering project. Learning by watching is surficial and not necessarily exposes students to minor details that are critical. As such, the significance of this study is that maybe, after all, not all courses can be taught in a virtual environment, and some courses may be strictly taught in a traditional, hands-on instruction mode. We also study the socio-psychological impact of traditional and virtual learning experiences and report the remedies to cope with stress and loneliness in the online learning environment.

Dofe, J., & Kurwadkar, S. T. (2021, July), Project-Based Learning: Contrasting Experience Between Traditional Face-to-Face Instruction and Virtual Instruction Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37616

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