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Relating Usage of Web-Based Learning Materials to Learning Progress

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Evaluation of Teaching Methods for Mechanics Courses

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Page Numbers

25.1112.1 - 25.1112.10

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Paper Authors


Paul S. Steif Carnegie Mellon University

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Paul S. Steif is a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He received a Sc.B. in engineering from Brown University (1979) and M.S. (1980) and Ph.D. (1982) degrees from Harvard University in applied mechanics. He has been active as a teacher and researcher in the field of engineering education and mechanics. His research has focused on student learning of mechanics concepts and developing new course materials and classroom approaches. Drawing upon methods of cognitive and learning sciences, he has led the development and psychometric validation of the statics concept inventory, a test of statics conceptual knowledge. He is the co-author of open learning initiative (OLI) engineering statics, and he is the author of a new textbook Mechanics of Materials, published by Pearson.

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Anna Dollar Miami University

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Anna Dollár is professor in the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at
Miami University in Oxford, OH, and previously was on the faculty of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in applied mechanics from Krakow University of Technology in
Poland. Her teaching has been recognized by many awards including: University Excellence in Teaching Award (IIT), and E. Phillips Knox University Teaching Award (Miami University). Her research focuses
on mechanics of solids and engineering education.

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Relating Usage of Web-Based Learning Materials to Learning Progress  We seek to measure student usage of web-based learning materials and relate that usageto learning. This study is conducted in the context of an “inverted classroom” approachto blending web-based learning materials into instructor-led statics courses. Studentsreceive initial exposure to a topic prior to class by using the web-based materials.Preliminary exposure to material outside of class may lead to initial learning of basicideas by many students, although students still have questions or uncertainties. Classtime, which offers opportunities for deeper student-instructor interactions, can then beused, for example, to address students’ questions and more complex or interestingapplications. The web-based materials are instrumented to record student answers, andprovide the results in readily accessible aggregated form to instructors. Results arepresented to instructors via a Learning Dashboard which helps to track student on-linelearning activities and identify the concepts and skills that students still need to master.The courseware used in this study has been developed by two of the authors as part of theCarnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative (OLI) to develop cognitively informededucational resources that enact instruction. This courseware has benefited from priorresearch into conceptual knowledge in Statics and the psychometric analysis of theStatics Concept Inventory. It also incorporates many general lessons from the learningsciences that are broadly relevant, as described in previous papers presented by theauthors at ASEE conferences. The courseware, freely available to individual learners andinstitutions, currently consists of six units, each containing a set of modules. Each moduleis based on a set of carefully articulated learning objectives and contains expository textand various interactive exercises and simulations. Assessment is tightly integrated withineach module, with students confronting formative “Learn by Doing” activities, whichoffer hints and feedback, and summative “Did I Get This” interactive assessments at theend of each section to signal if learning objectives were met.The paper reports on the learning progress in a Statics courses at two distinct institutions.As a measure of entering ability, the Force Concept Inventory had been administered tostudents at the very start of the course. Frequencies of interactive exercises undertaken byeach student are captured with the Learning Dashboard and interpreted as a measure ofengagement. Exam scores and scores on the Statics Concept Inventory near the end of thesemester are taken as measures of final ability. We study the level of engagement andhow engagement affects final ability for students of differing entering abilities.Keywords: web-based courseware, inverted classroom, interactive learning, Statics

Steif, P. S., & Dollar, A. (2012, June), Relating Usage of Web-Based Learning Materials to Learning Progress Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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