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Transforming an Engineering Design Course into an Engaging Learning Experience Using a Series of Self-Directed Mini-Projects and ePortfolios: Face-to-Face Versus Online-only Instruction

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Design Related

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count

21

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37930

Download Count

30

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Paper Authors

biography

Taylor Tucker University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Taylor Tucker graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering mechanics. She is now pursuing a master’s degree at UIUC through the Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, and Agency program in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. She is interested in design thinking as it applies to engineering settings and lends her technical background to her research with the Collaborative Learning Lab, exploring ways to to promote collaborative problem solving in engineering education and provide students with team design experiences that mimic authentic work in industry.

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Ava R. Wolf University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Ava Wolf, PhD supports faculty in developing courses that emphasize active and engaged learning, and conducts research on interactive learning spaces, effective teaching strategies, and the integration of technology.

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Nattasit Dancholvichit University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Nattasit Dancholvichit was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1990. He received a B.A. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2014. He received an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2017.
He is currently a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He carries out research in the field of micro-manufacturing, precision control, manufacturing, and mechatronics. His research also includes control optimization and system identification. He is also a graduate teaching assistant of design for manufacturability.

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Leon Liebenberg University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0834-6212

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Leon is a Teaching Associate Professor in mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also a Fellow of the UIUC's Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. Before coming to UIUC, he was a professor of mechanical engineering at two South African universities (University of Pretoria; North West University) and a higher education consultant in Switzerland where he worked with colleges of engineering and technology management.
Leon is passionate about multidisciplinary research, particularly in the fields of energy engineering, biomedical engineering, and engineering education. Together with UIUC colleagues in the ENGagement In eNgineering Education (ENGINE) instructional innovation team, Leon is evaluating a wide array of pedagogies of engagement. The intention is to promote deep learning and improved engagement of students in subject matter.
Leon teaches a variety of subjects, including: Innovation; Statics; Dynamics; Thermodynamics; Fluid Dynamics; Design for Manufacturability; Mechanical Design; Heat Transfer; Energy Conversion Systems; Aerodynamics; Aeronautics; and Advanced Heat and Mass Transfer. He holds a doctoral and two master’s degrees from Imperial College London and from the University of Johannesburg.

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Abstract

The use of design-thinking (or human-centered design) has become an important part of engineering education today, with students learning to consider the value of empathizing with end users and co-creating solutions. However, instructors often neglect to apply these same empathic methods in considering the learning needs of their students. For example, in team-based design work students rarely receive opportunities to make autonomous discoveries. Additionally, engineering students are taught to communicate design decisions through technical tools and software, but often struggle to describe complex information effectively to a lay public. To some extent, these challenges have become amplified through the adoption of online-only modes of instruction due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With online instruction, even more than for face-to-face instruction, engineering educators need to involve students at cognitive and emotional levels in authentic, meaningful, and immersive learning experiences. This study seeks to analyze the use of mini-projects (complex design projects divided into smaller segments) combined with comprehensive ePortfolios (electronic portfolios) in a sophomore-level Design for Manufacturability course. By emphasizing self-directed and scaffolded learning experiences, the pairing of these mini-projects with student-produced electronic portfolios can provide students with opportunities to develop competencies such as self-directed learning, autonomous exploration, creative inspiration, effective planning, and lay communication of complex ideas. For the purposes of this investigation, mini-projects may be independent from one another or connected as a series. Lessons from previous mini-projects are integrated in subsequent projects, and each mini-project is offered with ill-defined analytical questions and open-ended design questions that demand independent research. Scaffolded mini-projects offer an ideal mechanism for students to demonstrate their competencies, especially when offered in tandem with teaching-learning-assessments via ePortfolios, which have been shown to be effective in documenting learning competencies, enabling meta-analysis and personal reflection, and improving skills in employing social media to communicate ideas. In effect, mini-projects combined with ePortfolios may help to facilitate deeper understanding of course content, make the curriculum more relevant for students, and build connections between classroom and professional learning competencies. This study will offer a comparative analysis evaluating the efficacy of using mini-projects and ePortfolios in a face-to-face learning environment (Fall 2019) and in an online-only learning environment (Fall 2020). Participants in the face-to-face Fall 2019 (n = 104) course completed a questionnaire that evaluated specific engagement constructs. The completed questionnaires were evaluated using descriptive statistics and factor analysis. Data from the Fall 2020 (n =100) course will be evaluated using the same assessment methodology. It is hoped that the findings from this work may contribute to the development of teaching strategies that can enhance and facilitate learning during online-only and face-to-face instruction.

Tucker, T., & Wolf, A. R., & Dancholvichit, N., & Liebenberg, L. (2021, July), Transforming an Engineering Design Course into an Engaging Learning Experience Using a Series of Self-Directed Mini-Projects and ePortfolios: Face-to-Face Versus Online-only Instruction Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37930

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