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The Delicate Balance: Introducing Complex Software While Teaching The Discipline's Concepts

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.449.1 - 1.449.4

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Timothy Sexton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

- .-. Session 0630

The Delicate Balance: Introducing Complex Software While Teaching the Discipline’s Concepts

Timothy J. Sexton, Ph.D. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

Introduction Several disciplines have been revolutionized by the development of very powerful yet complex computer software. Statistics and Engineering Graphics are just two examples of subjects in which complex software can assist the understanding of difficult concepts and allow students to be more productive. But along with this revolution in software, there comes a perplexing problem. How does one balance the teaching of the basic concepts of a discipline and also teach complex software? If you concentrate on the software, students may become proficient but dangerous software users. They will not know its proper applications or the reasonableness of their solutions. If you concentrate on basic concepts at the expense of the software, students are not being exposed to the most efficient and effective tools of the respective discipline.

The author teaches courses in Engineering Graphics in which Computer Aided Design (CAD) software is an essential and integral component of the discipline at the entry through advanced levels. But CAD software can be overwhelming to the student using it for the first time. Add to this overwhelming feeling the expectation that one must learn the software while simultaneously trying to master the basic concepts of Engineering Graphics. This paper discusses the author’s experience using CAD software in an introductory course in Engineering Graphics to illustrate the problem of introducing a complex computer software in an entry level course. Instructional methods for successfully implementing complex software into an entry level course will be suggested.

Problem Statement Engineering Graphics courses have been taught for some time without complex software, so why work so hard to implement it into the curriculum? Research by Bertoline, and Sexton compared the use of both 2-D and 3-D CAD in contrast to traditional manual and 2-D CAD approaches in teaching Engineering Graphics and Descriptive Geometry, They found no significant difference on test scores measuring spatial visualization of students using traditional methods versus CAD. This implies that the use of CAD in Engineering Graphics courses is at least as effective in teaching spatial visualization.

This author works under the premise that CAD software is more than just a means to produce drawings more efficiently. Its three dimensional capability allows students access to an environment never before possible, This complex software allows students to better learn and reinforce the basics of Engineering Graphics ! It is worth the effort to implement it into the curriculum. However, due to its complexity, it must be implemented properly or it can be disastrous to your students.

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Sexton, T. (1996, June), The Delicate Balance: Introducing Complex Software While Teaching The Discipline's Concepts Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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