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Using The Internet To Support Active Learning

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1120.1 - 6.1120.11



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Hartman

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Louis Plebani

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

Session 2520

Using the Internet to Support Active Learning

Louis J. Plebani, Joseph C. Hartman Lehigh University


This paper describes an Internet based system we used to support Active Learning in a class taught to Industrial Engineering Seniors in the fall semester 2000. The system attempted to engage students in learning by presenting them with problems they perceive as more realistic than textbook problems and by requiring them to fill in gaps when presented with a situation they do not readily understand. An overview of the system implementation, problems and student reaction is presented.

I. Introduction

A difficulty in teaching subjects involving quantitative methodologies such as basic statistics and decision analysis is that students are not motivated to drill the homework problems required to cement the concepts taught in lectures. At the same time, while drills are important, it is widely accepted that students understand material better, retain it longer, and enjoy their classes most when they take the lead to think about what they are doing. In short, problems should not be cookbook; students should be made to think. With regard to motivation, research [1,2] has shown that positive influences are: (1) when students work on problems they perceive as meaningful or relevant; and (2) when students are placed in a competitive situation in the role of a problem solver confronted with an ill-structured problem.

In order to provide relevance, an instructor in quantitative courses often introduces anecdotal evidence concerning the application of the basic concepts. This may succeed in capturing interest during a class period, but it is not often possible to provide problems that piggyback on the anecdotes. Usually, if a synergistic exercise is provided, it is in the form of a project because simple homework problems do not permit the complexity required to truly stimulate deep thinking about relevant techniques, solution tradeoffs and their consequences. Textbooks are seldom of much help as they are usually filled with end of chapter exercises that are anything but ill structured. Many students typically do homework by perusing the relevant chapter until they find an example that looks like the current exercise. They then substitute data into the example framework and get an answer without appreciating any details of the method or its application. The downside of projects is the large amount of instructor time that is consumed in developing, managing and grading a realistic project. The effect of this, rightly or not, is that project type problems tend to be excluded from the realm of drill exercises. In an attempt to solve this dilemma of too little learning on the student side and too much tedious work on the instructor side, we implemented a web-based system to bridge the gap between drill exercises and term projects.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Hartman, J., & Plebani, L. (2001, June), Using The Internet To Support Active Learning Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9980

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