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Story Centered Learning In A Computer Based Simulated Environment

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Enhancing CE Learning Through Use of Technology

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1094.1 - 15.1094.13



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Paper Authors


Luis Godoy University of Puerto Rico

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Prof. Luis A. Godoy graduated as a Civil Engineer at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, and received his Ph. D. from University College London (University of London, UK) in 1979. He is Professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez since 1994. Godoy has published three books: Thin Walled Structures with Structural Imperfections (Pergamon Press, 1996), and Theory of Elastic Stability (Taylor and Francis, 2000), and Stability of Structures: A historical perspective (CIMNE, 2009). His research interests include engineering education, structural stability, granular flow, computational mechanics, and plates and shells, and results of his research have been published in more than 150 peer-reviewed journal papers. At present, he has been awarded an NSF-CCLI research grant.

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

Story-Centred Learning in a Computer-Based Environment Abstract - This paper reports on implementations of active learning strategies carried out for the civil engineering courses. Specifically, the activities are performed by students in a computer- simulated environment, in which they are assigned a role and follow a mission. As a consequence of the activity, the students prepare a product (a report, drawing, or other documents) and send it to a real tutor for evaluation. Because the simulation of the environment is the most expensive part of this class of development, a story-centered approach has been followed here, in which only part of the activities are represented in the module. This approach was originally proposed by R. C. Schank and has been adapted here for engineering education, in which formal modeling and calculations are part of the expected activities. Examples are used to illustrate the implemented activities, which refer to learning about structural failures. At the beginning of the module, the students are presented with a situation in which they play a role and have to investigate a collapse in order to identify the causes of the event. There is a virtual library room, in which supporting texts are provided to help understanding the technical aspects. There is also a virtual computer room. The students can ask virtual tutors about specific topics that are relevant to the task they try to perform. Several virtual tutors are implemented in each case, of which some are “storytellers” and others are “analyzers”. This format is not intensive in multimedia and still it is capable of creating a realistic situation in which the student has to perform activities similar to those that are expected from experts in the field.

Keywords – active learning, civil engineering, computational tools, story-centered activities, structural failures


This paper reports on implementations of active learning strategies carried out within the context of civil engineering education. The main question addressed in this paper is: How can we implement virtual learning-by-doing strategies so that students learn without the need to have a human expert on the topic in class?

The term “active learning” is often used to enclose very different activities, but according to Prince, “active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing” 1. There are several ways in which active learning can be implemented, such as collaborative learning, cooperative learning and problem-based learning, among others. The efficacy of student active learning has been investigated by a number of researchers, and reviews may be found in compilations by Prince 1 and by Froyd 2. Prince found evidence that supports most forms of active learning. He concluded that different implementations of problem-based learning emphasize different elements and this makes it difficult to state general assessment of this approach; however, it seems that this “positively influences student attitudes and students habits; studies also suggest that students will retain information longer and perhaps develop enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills” 1.

Basically, the strategy of learning-by-doing supports that students learn by performing activities aimed at reaching a pre-established goal, and not by listening to an instructor in a lecture. Advocates of learning-by-doing stress the role of doing as part of preparing to perform in a

Godoy, L. (2010, June), Story Centered Learning In A Computer Based Simulated Environment Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15754

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