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Student Perceptions of Tactile and Virtual Learning Approaches: What Can We Learn from their Viewpoint?

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Visualization tools and uses in graphics

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1105.1 - 23.1105.16



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Paper Authors


Kathy Schmidt Jackson The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence

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Dr. Kathy Jackson is a senior research associate at Pennsylvania State University’s Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. In this position, she promotes Penn State’s commitment to enriching teaching and learning. Dr. Jackson works in all aspects of education including faculty development, instructional design, engineering education, learner support, and evaluation.

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Conrad Tucker Pennsylvania State University, University Park


Gül E. Okudan Kremer Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Gül E. Okudan Kremer is an associate professor of Engineering and Industrial Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Her research focuses on decision analysis and design theory applied to improvement of products and systems. She has co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed papers to date and received several best paper awards. She has been also a National Research Council-US AFRL Summer Faculty Fellow of the Human Effectiveness Directorate for 2002, 2003 and 2004, and a Fulbright Scholar from 2010 to 2011.

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Student Perceptions of Tactile and Virtual Learning Approaches: What Can We Learn from their Viewpoint?Active physical manipulation and touching of objects, also known as tactile interaction, isgenerally viewed as an effective way for students to learn complex and abstract concepts.However, researchers are still investigating how tactile instructional activities contribute todeeper student learning. In traditional engineering design courses, students engage in tactile aswell as virtual learning experiences. The study aims to determine whether substantial differencesexist between tactile and virtual learning approaches on active learning outcomes. In thispreliminary study, we are investigating students' perceptions of tactile and virtual learningactivities in an engineering design classroom and the challenges that students face in performingthese types of activities in a team-based approach.Active learning can have many definitions and, in general, refers to various teaching and learningstrategies where students are responsible for their learning by interactive involvement - this is nota passive lecture approach. With tactile learning, students are able to explore and manipulateobjects and materials, yet today's students tend to do much of their exploration and objectmanipulation through the use of computer technologies rather than through interactions withphysical products (e.g., virtual product dissection vs. physical dissection). Some wonder ifstudents who no longer touch and handle objects are able to be effective abstract thinkers. Otherscontend that because todays' students are more tech savvy, active learning is possible throughvirtual interactions.At xxx, freshman students are introduced to engineering design in a course that incorporates bothdigital and hands-on learning. This class provides students with theoretical fundamentals,abstract thinking, and real-world applications that are taught through the framework ofsustainable design and environmental awareness. Students work in teams to complete their labassignments and their ability to successfully collaborate, use the various technologies, and createnovel solutions is dependent upon their ability to manipulate objects (either physically orvirtually). In this paper, we will offer preliminary evidence on the comparison of tactile vs.virtual learning as perceived by our students and share instructional issues that students feeleither help or hinder their ability to learn individually or as a team member.

Jackson, K. S., & Tucker, C., & Okudan Kremer, G. E. (2013, June), Student Perceptions of Tactile and Virtual Learning Approaches: What Can We Learn from their Viewpoint? Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22490

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