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The Evolution of Tactile and Digital Learning Preferences in Undergraduate Engineering Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Trends in Engineering Education 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1215.1 - 24.1215.16



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Paper Authors

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Conrad Tucker Pennsylvania State University, University Park


Kathy Schmidt Jackson Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Kathy Jackson is a senior research associate at Pennsylvania State University’s Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. In this position, she promotes Penn State’s commitment to enriching teaching and learning. Dr. Jackson works in all aspects of education, including faculty development, instructional design, engineering education, learner support, and evaluation.

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Linda C. Schmidt University of Maryland, College Park

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Gül E. Okudan Kremer Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Peifeng Yin

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The Evolution of Tactile and Digital Learning Preferences in Undergraduate Engineering EducationThe objective of this research is to investigate the evolution of student preferences towardsdigital and hands-on learning at different stages of undergraduate engineering education. Digitallearning techniques refer to the use of virtual environments to communicate educational conceptsand activities. Hands-on learning on the other hand relates to the physical handling of objects.Inevitably, certain characteristics of hands-on interactions (e.g., experiencing texture, weight,etc. of objects) are difficult to translate to the digital space. Concurrently, certain characteristicsof digital interactions (e.g., digital augmentation of objects) are difficult to accomplish duringhands-on interactions. While research findings have determined that both digital and hands-onlearning are relevant in shaping student experiences in engineering courses, research into theevolution of student learning preferences as they progress through the engineering curricularemains limited. Understanding the evolution of student preferences towards each learning stylewould provide valuable insights to instructors and researchers aiming to enhance engineeringeducation by determining when/where to emphasize a certain learning style during theundergraduate engineering experience.This research is a multi-institutional collaboration between the University of X and Y. Studentsranging from freshmen to seniors are included in this study in order to quantify the differencesbetween digital and hands-on learning: 1) across engineering grade levels and 2) acrossinstitutions offering comparable engineering courses. This paper will provide preliminaryevidence as to how student preferences evolve as they progress through their engineeringcurricula. Such insights will inform researchers and industry about the preparedness levels of ournext generation work force and their ability to design physical systems for the real world, whileconcurrently taking into account the rapidly evolving shift towards digital simulation models andonline collaborative environments.

Tucker, C., & Jackson, K. S., & Schmidt, L. C., & Okudan Kremer, G. E., & Yin, P. (2014, June), The Evolution of Tactile and Digital Learning Preferences in Undergraduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23148

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