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Providing Authentic Experiences in the First Year: Designing Educational Software in Support of Service Learning Activities

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 4: The Best of the All: FPD Best Papers

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1280.1 - 26.1280.29



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Paper Authors


John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

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John K. Estell is a Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Ohio Northern University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his B.S.C.S.E. degree in computer science and engineering from The University of Toledo. His areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process through use of performance vectors and evaluation heuristics, first-year engineering instruction, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. John has held a variety of leadership positions, including currently serving as an ABET Commissioner and as Vice President of The Pledge of the Computing Professional; within ASEE, he previously served as Chair of the Computers in Education Division. He is a past recipient of Best Paper awards from the Computers in Education, First-Year Programs, and Design in Engineering Education Divisions, and has also been recognized for his contributions to the ABET Symposium. Dr. Estell is a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, Phi Kappa Phi, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

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David Reeping Ohio Northern University Orcid 16x16

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David Reeping is a junior majoring in Engineering Education with a minor in Mathematics and an undergraduate research assistant. He is a Choose Ohio First scholar inducted during the 2012-2013 school year and the recipient of the Remsburg Creativity Award for 2013 and The DeBow Freed Award for outstanding leadership as an undergraduate student (sophomore male) in 2014. Also, he is a member of the freshman honorary society (Alpha Lambda Delta / Phi Eta Sigma) and the mathematics honorary society (Kappa Mu Epsilon). His research interests involve first year engineering course analysis, authentic projects and assessments, and K-12 engineering.

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Providing Authentic Experiences in the First Year: Designing Educational Software for use in the Dominican RepublicThe introductory programming sequence taken by both computer engineering and computerscience majors in their first year at a medium-sized, private institution in the Midwest involvesusing C++ in the first semester for learning programming fundamentals, and then switching overto Java in the second semester to provide early exposure to event-driven programming andgraphical user interface development. Given the existence of studies that claim the lack of amotivating learning environment is a primary reason for student attrition, it is incumbent uponthe engineering education community to design experiences that help to both engage studentsand to provide a welcoming atmosphere to their chosen major. For three years prior to thisresearch, the introductory programming sequence culminated in a term project where studentteams would design educational games to address instructor-selected state educational standards.While these students at least had an engaging, legitimate scenario for their project development,there was no client involvement to help guide their efforts.One proven methodology to engage students is service learning, where classroom instruction iscombined with meaningful community service. In this way, instructors can provide authenticexperiences featuring problems involving real-world clients. For two years prior to this research,teams of students and faculty from the aforementioned institution have engaged in servicelearning by travelling to the Dominican Republic to run STEM-related educational workshopsfor groups of resident K-12 educators. However, while these students were capable of developinglesson plans for such workshops, they lacked the ability to create software applications that couldenhance the overall content through supplemental material.A collaborative effort between these two student groups was implemented in spring 2014, whereeducation students would have their lesson plans augmented by a team of introductoryprogramming students designing a web-based Java application. The hypothesis being explored inthis proposed manuscript is that, through this client-based collaboration, the programmingstudents would gain an authentic design experience that would provide at least a subset of thebenefits commonly associated with service learning activities.The design process started by presenting the education students’ lesson plans to the programmingteams; each team ranked their interest and plans were then assigned to best accommodate eachgroup. Implementation proposals were submitted, which were collectively vetted by theeducation students through means of a rubric. After any necessary revisions, the programmingteams delivered a web-based Java application, an elevator pitch video, a written report, and anoral presentation. For quantitative assessment, pre- and post-activity surveys developed forassessing service learning experiences were used to perform paired t-tests, and end-of-termcourse surveys were used to gauge differences between the current and previous cohorts.Qualitative assessment was performed through the use of open-ended questions in both the post-activity and end-of-term surveys. The results of the assessment were generally positive andinspired possible improvements for implementation in the following year. The manuscript willprovide conclusions drawn from these results and report on the future directions that thisresearch effort is taking to further improve this educational experience for the first-year students.

Estell, J. K., & Reeping, D. (2015, June), Providing Authentic Experiences in the First Year: Designing Educational Software in Support of Service Learning Activities Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24617

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