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Teaching in the Era of COVID-19: A Reinvented Course Project for an Ocean Engineering Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Best Paper, Best Diversity Paper

Tagged Division

Ocean and Marine

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Paper Authors


Maija A Benitz Roger Williams University

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Dr. Maija Benitz is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Roger Williams University, where she has taught since 2017. Prior to joining RWU, Benitz taught at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, after completing her doctoral work jointly in the Multiphase Flow Simulation Lab and the Wind Energy Center at UMass Amherst. She teaches in the first-year curriculum, as well as thermodynamics, sustainable energy, fluid mechanics, and ocean engineering. Benitz is a Hassenfeld Community Engagement Fellow and a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at RWU. Her research focuses on offshore wind energy, oyster growth, community engagement, and engineering education.

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Experiential, team-based course projects, with an emphasis on designing and building physical products, are increasingly being adopted across many engineering disciplines, including wide use in ocean engineering courses. COVID-19 presents new challenges to pedagogies that rely heavily on physical production and face-to-face teamwork. While collaborative, hands-on projects, such as designing and building ROVs, have many documented educational gains—deepening content understanding and improving motivation, to name a few—these once beneficial activities are currently infeasible. The complications brought on by the pandemic necessitate the creation of new course projects that heed social distancing guidelines, minimize touch, and accommodate remote learners, all while continuing to enhance student learning.

In the Fall of 2020, our small liberal arts university reopened its classrooms for in-person teaching and learning. While most students elected to return to the physical classroom, some chose to learn remotely, resulting in a large number of hybrid course offerings. The potential for a spike in COVID-19 cases in the campus community meant that courses could pivot to fully remote teaching and learning at any moment. In response to this new pedagogical framework, the semester-long course project for an upper-level ocean engineering course was reinvented. The project was inspired by Wired Magazine’s video series “5-Levels” in which experts explain a topic to a child, teenager, undergraduate, graduate student, and an expert in their field. This Fall, students worked individually to create a video series in which they explained a self-selected advanced topic in ocean engineering to three distinct audiences of their choosing. The success of the new course project is assessed through analysis of students’ videos, reflection papers, peer evaluations, and course surveys. More specifically, the aim of this work is to explore the efficacy of the project in meeting a variety of learning outcomes, including enhancing 21st century skills in audiovisual communication, and deepening the students’ knowledge of ocean engineering concepts. Finally, this paper shares lessons learned and provides recommendations for future implementations of this course project.

Benitz, M. A. (2021, July), Teaching in the Era of COVID-19: A Reinvented Course Project for an Ocean Engineering Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37814

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