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Student Use Of Author's Textbook Solution Manuals: Effect On Student Learning Of Mechanics Fundamentals

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in Mechanical Engineering Education Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1319.1 - 12.1319.9



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Paper Authors


James Widmann California Polytechnic State University

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Jim Widmann is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic
State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from Stanford University.
Currently he teaches mechanics and design courses. He conducts research in the areas of design
optimization, machine design, fluid power control and engineering education.

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Kim Shollenberger California Polytechnic State University

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Kim Shollenberger received her Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of California at Berkeley. She
then worked for eight years at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, before joining
the faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, as an Associate Professor
of Mechanical Engineering. Currently she teaches thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid
mechanics. Her research is in the area of multiphase flows and computational modeling of
thermal-fluid systems.

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Jane Kennedy California Polytechnic State University

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Jane Kennedy is a lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. She received her B.S. from UCLA in 1991 and her M.S. from Cal Poly in 1996. She is the Research Director of Investors Internet Inc. and co-author of the book "The Investor's Free Internet".

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Student use of Author’s Textbook Solution Manuals: Effect on Student Learning of Mechanics Fundamentals


Evidence indicates 90% of engineering students have used author’s textbook solutions manuals, and up to 75% of these students regularly use the manuals when working graded homework assignments.1 Many faculty intuitively believe that the use of these manuals by students is not only a form of academic dishonesty, but has negative effects on student learning; however the effect on learning is not well documented. In order to assess the effects of solution manual usage, classes in Statics and Dynamics were monitored at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Each of these courses is taught in multiple sections by the same instructor during the same quarter. In this study roughly one half of the sections were given homework problems from the textbook while the other half were give homework problems from other sources. Comparative assessment of student learning included course surveys, homework scores, quizzes, and final exams. Results of the study indicate that the students who attempt the majority of homework assignments without access to solution manuals perform better on exams and earn higher grades in the classes. This paper presents the detailed results with conclusions drawn concerning the effects of student usage of author’s textbook solution manuals.


Homework is a traditional component of educational programs in general and engineering classes in particular. Engineering professors typically perceive that learning how to apply technical knowledge requires students to complete some problems on their own at their own pace. Some research has been done to document the positive impact of homework on student learning. A review of 15 studies on elementary and secondary students showed that the effects of homework on student learning were large and consistent.2 If the homework was assigned without feedback, a typical student at the 50th percentile rose to the 60th percentile. If the homework was graded or feedback was provided, the typical student now rose to the 79th percentile. In a subsequent review researchers also found that homework positively impacts student learning and that the impact varies dramatically with grade level.3 The effect of homework on performance is minimal for elementary students, significant for junior high students, and substantial for high school students. A more recent study focused on the impact of grading versus not grading homework assignments for electrical engineering students in a preparatory math course.4 The results of this study were less conclusive. For the first semester of the study a significant improvement was measured for the students whose homework was graded, but for the second semester of the study no impact was found. Thus, there is good evidence to support that assigning homework has a positive impact on student learning and reasonable evidence that giving some incentives to complete the homework (such as grading) is also important.

Widmann, J., & Shollenberger, K., & Kennedy, J. (2007, June), Student Use Of Author's Textbook Solution Manuals: Effect On Student Learning Of Mechanics Fundamentals Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1877

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