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The Effectiveness of Webinars in Professional Skills and Engineering Ethics Education in Large Online Classes

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Brendon Lumgair P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Brendon is an "out-of-the-box" engineer with degrees in engineering and philosophy. He is passionate about using webinars and online learning tools to engage learners on their own terms. When students feel comfortable they ask more questions and participate in activities and discussions about the material, thus increasing retention and student satisfaction.

After 10 years of industry experience Brendon became an engineering technology instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2012. He has been a sessional instructor at the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, where he completed his MSc. in engineering researching engineering education.

His roots in industry aided him in the development of curriculum for 3 new courses by aligning industry's desired competencies for new grads with accreditation criteria and facility constraints. The result was applied education: practical learning activities and hands-on labs that prepared students for the real world and accelerated their time-to-competency once on the job.

Connect with Brendon on LinkedIn to start a conversation.

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Online learning is revolutionizing education, especially in post-secondary institutions where class sizes are already in the hundreds. Engineering-science-based courses are ideal for online learning with their focus on formulas and solving numerical problems. The black and white nature of technical content makes it easier to communicate via concrete video lectures and examples as well as automatically assess in a mass-production fashion (Hugo, Brennan, 2016). What about teaching non-technical engineering courses online to hundreds or thousands of students?

ABET student outcomes for professional skills are qualitative in nature. Therefore, they require qualitative assessment because of the wide range of possible solutions inside the gray zone (Shuman, 2005). How can hundreds of students achieve these outcomes in an online course without sacrificing the quality of teaching and learning and the rigour of assessment? This study explores the unique challenges of teaching a large online courses that meet ABET’s student outcomes of: professional and ethical responsibilities, and knowledge of the impact of engineering technology solutions in a societal and global context.

In 2014, an undergraduate engineering course on professionalism, ethics and life-long learning was taught to 411 students through the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering. The blended learning methods available to students were: traditional in-person lectures, video livestreams of the lectures, asynchronous video recordings of the lectures, the required course textbook and there was a discussion forum where participation was optional.

Students were assessed through a combination of online quizzes and two qualitative assessments: a written case-study analysis of an industrial disaster and a 10-minute video presentation of the student analyzing an ethical dilemma and arriving at a decision on what they would do.

One year later, the course was taught online to 468 students by the same instructor. This time the course was purely online with synchronous webinars replacing the in-person lectures in a theatre. Discussion forum participation became a mandatory gradable component. The intention was increase opportunities for interaction with the instructor and fellow students (Lumgair, 2017). Students of both courses were surveyed on their perspectives and preferences with regards to: the presentation formats of course content delivery, engagement levels and perceived effectiveness of each format and the effectiveness of the assessments in evaluating student outcomes. In summary, utilizing live interactive webinars correlated to increased learner engagement and effectiveness ratings and are recommended as an online teaching and learning tool that ought to be added to blended online courses in place of livestreaming in-person lectures, or in addition to pre-recorded video lectures. Professional skills learning outcomes and criteria can be met through online courses conducted with hundreds of students, if rigorous qualitative assessments are issued and there are enough hours allocated to the loading the instructor and teaching assistants to maintain accreditation criteria standards.

Lumgair, B. (2018, June), The Effectiveness of Webinars in Professional Skills and Engineering Ethics Education in Large Online Classes Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31092

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