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The concerns and perceived challenges that students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Sarah Orton University of Missouri - Columbia

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Dr. Orton is an associate professor in Civil Engineering and is an active member of the American Concrete Institute and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Dr. Orton also serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Missouri. She has participated in several programs aimed at improving undergraduate education. Her research projects have involved the use of carbon fiber reinforced polymers to strengthen structures, analysis and testing for reinforced concrete frames under disproportionate collapse, and risk and reliability analysis of bridges and offshore structures. She is a registered professional engineer in Missouri.

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Fan Yu University of Missouri - Columbia

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Fan Yu is a doctoral student at the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is originally from China. Fan received her MS in Elementary Education Science and a graduate certificate in Curriculum and Instructions in 2017. She worked as a K12 educational products developer for four years.
Fan’s research interests include STEM education and UX design in learning technologies. She concerns about how learning technologies encourage students from underrepresented groups to study and work in STEM fields.

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Johanna Milord

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Counseling Psychology

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Lisa Flores University of Missouri - Columbia

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Rose Marra University of Missouri - Columbia

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This research evaluates the impact of switching college engineering courses from in-person instruction to emergency remote learning among engineering students at a university in the Midwest. The study aimed to answer the question: What were the concerns and perceived challenges students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning? The goal of this study is to uncover the challenges students were facing in engineering online courses and to understand students’ concerns. Our findings can help improve teaching instruction to provide students with previously unavailable educational assistance for online engineering courses.

We collected online survey responses during weeks 8 and 9 of the academic semester, shortly after the COVID-19 shutdown and emergency transition to remote learning in Spring 2020. The survey included two open-ended questions which inquired about students’ feedback about moving the class online, and one two-item scale which assessed students’ confidence in online engineering learning. Data analysis for the open-ended questions was guided by the theoretical framework - Social Cognitive Career Theory [1] that explores how context, person factors and social cognitions contribute to career goals, interests and actions. A phenomenological approach [1] was conducted to understand the experience of these students. Open coding and axial coding [1] methods were used to create initial categories then themes related to students' concerns and challenges. Data from the two-item scale was evaluated using descriptive statistics: means, standard deviations, and ranges.

Four main themes with separate sub-categories emerged from the student responses: 1) Instructor’s ability to teach course online (Instructional limitations, Seeking help, Increased Workload), 2) Student’s ability to learn online (Time Management, Lower engagement and motivation, Harder to absorb material, Hard to focus, Worry about performance), 3) Difficulties outside of class (Technology issues), and 4) No concerns. Students seemed more concerned about their ability to learn the material (48% of responses) than the instructor’s ability to teach the material (36% of responses). The instructional limitations or lack of instructional support (22% of responses) and time management (12% of responses) were among the major concerns in the sub-categories. The results from two-item scale indicated participants' s confidence in their ability to master their classroom knowledge was at an intermediate level via online instruction (6/10), and participants' confidence in the instructor's ability to teach knowledge in online classes is moderate to high (7/10). The results align with the open-ended question response in which students were somewhat more concerned about their ability to learn than the instructor’s ability to teach. The themes and analysis will be a valuable tool to help institutions and instructors improve student learning experiences.

Orton, S., & Yu, F., & Milord, J., & Flores, L., & Marra, R. (2022, August), The concerns and perceived challenges that students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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