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Teaching Structures in an (Almost) Empty Room: An Assessment of Strategies for Student Engagement in Mixed-mode and Remote Classes

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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

Reassessing Your Teaching Through Turmoil

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Ryan Solnosky P.E. Pennsylvania State University

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Ryan Solnosky is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Architectural Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University at University Park. Dr. Solnosky has taught courses for Architectural Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Pre-Major Freshman in Engineering. He received his integrated Bachelor of Architectural Engineering/Master of Architectural Engineering (BAE/MAE), and PhD. degrees in architectural engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Solnosky is also a licensed Professional Engineer in PA. Ryan's research interests include: integrated structural design methodologies and processes; Innovative methods for enhancing engineering education; and high performing wall enclosures. These three areas look towards the next generation of building engineering, including how systems are selected, configured and designed.

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Nathan C. Brown Pennsylvania State University

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Rebecca Napolitano Pennsylvania State University

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Newly imposed educational delivery modalities such as mixed-mode or fully remote instruction due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in many creative, innovative instructional approaches to undergraduate engineering education. However, given the unique circumstances caused by the pandemic and the constraints it has placed on students and on available resources, some instructional techniques have been more successful than others. It is crucial for future efforts in remote and hybrid teaching environments to use this opportunity to document the realized benefits, unforeseen negative consequences, and student perceptions of various teaching strategies. This paper traces lessons learned through mixed-mode and remote instruction of structural engineering courses for three different courses and student populations: (1) intro to steel design and (2) indeterminate analysis for structural engineering concentrators, and (3) steel and concrete design for engineering concentrators in other sub-disciplines.

Across these courses, initial teaching strategies included a variety of flipped classroom, traditional lectures, and interactive group problem solving and discussions. Collectively, the instructors determined through ongoing formal and informal student surveys, as well as additional unstructured feedback, that the proposed teaching strategies required adjustment as the semester progressed. Certain technological limitations were discovered after rigorous testing with live students, while successful technological strategies included digital problem sessions with document cameras, and chat-based questions and discussion. Furthermore, depending on the course size and student population, students tended to engage more readily through written e-mails and chats, discussion boards, and TA office hours than in verbal questions directly to the instructor during remote class. To build on initial findings from individual course feedback, all three classes were will be evaluated using a common mid-term and end-of-term survey soliciting student reactions to content delivery, technology aides, interactions with instructors/TAs, and their preferences compared to traditional instruction. Overall, lessons learned through mixed-mode and remote instruction in structural engineering can inform future educators in this field, reducing time spent surveying available technologies and pointing towards strategies shown to be effective in this context.

Solnosky, R., & Brown, N. C., & Napolitano, R. (2021, July), Teaching Structures in an (Almost) Empty Room: An Assessment of Strategies for Student Engagement in Mixed-mode and Remote Classes Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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