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Quantitatively Analyzing The Use And Usefulness Of The Design Learning Simulator

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.337.1 - 2.337.16



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Paper Authors

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Janet K. Allen

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Farrokh Mistree

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Jennifer Turns

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1630

Quantitatively Analyzing the Use and Usefulness of the Design Learning Simulator

Jennifer Turns, Farrokh Mistree, Janet K. Allen Georgia Institute of Technology

Abstract: Current trends in engineering design education, which promote teams of students solving open ended problems, often result in classes which create a wide variety of logistical, cognitive, and motivational problems for students. Software resources can help students but only if students perceive them to be useful and make use of them. Our Design-Learning Simulator at the Georgia Institute of Technology contains a variety of resources that support the different problems students have in the doing of and learning about design through experience. Through the Design Learning Simulator research, we have been exploring issues about what resources to provide to students and how to make them available. In the Spring, 1996 quarter, the Design Learning Simulator was implemented in a Web-based platform and included model design reports, electronic versions of class documents, resources to support team formation, resources to negotiate project requirements, and an on-line parts catalog. During this period, we received generally positive feedback from the students through survey questions, exit interviews, and testimonials. In this paper, we explore a quantitative approach for understanding the use and usefulness of the software, the analysis of the log files of student activity. Web log files were analyzed to address questions about how and where the resources were being used in general, as well as over time and in relation to critical periods in the course. We found that all resources, with the exception of the parts catalog, were used effectively and that the web-based implementation, promoting platform independent and universal access, was important. In the paper, we report on the analysis and conclude with recommendations for the continued development of the software and for the next steps in the research.


A recent survey conducted by the National Society of Professional Engineers found that while industry places a very high value on design and teamwork skills, the preparedness of the engineering graduates is very low [1]. Findings such as these are used to argue that engineering students need more and qualitatively different design experiences than currently exist within the curricula. Such experiences are supposed to provide students with the opportunity to solve open ended problems, to work in teams, and to treat design in a more formal manner [2-4]. In practice, such experience-based engineering design education can be difficult to create and challenging to sustain. Strategies and resources, including software resources, are needed to make the teaching with such experiences more feasible.

ME3110: Creative Decisions and Design is a junior level engineering design course which we have been teaching for over 10 years. In this course, we strive to help students learn about design as an intellectual cognitive activity through their participation in extended, team-based design experiences with open ended problems [5]. Self formed teams of students tackle open ended design problems, moving through a term long, structured design process - the Decision Support Process Technique [5] - to arrive at a working complex mechanical artifact by the end of the term. The process consists of ten phases that distribute the workload across the eleven weeks

Allen, J. K., & Mistree, F., & Turns, J. (1997, June), Quantitatively Analyzing The Use And Usefulness Of The Design Learning Simulator Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6754

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