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Web Modules: New Toys For Engineering Students To Learn With

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Technology and Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1463.1 - 10.1463.9

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Paper Authors

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Barbara Hug

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Jason FitzSimmons

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Jason FitzSimmons, Barbara Hug University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign


How far do we integrate technology, if at all, into our teaching? Instructors in engineering classrooms have traditionally used the chalkboard as the main medium to communicate engineering concepts to their students. The current movement within academia is to move more of the traditionally taught classes to an online learning environment. These two pedagogies can be thought of as the bookends of our current spectrum in education. Both techniques are appealing in their different application aspects, but they also have their own unique set of drawbacks. Instead of choosing one method over the other, the authors believe a hybrid pairing of the two pedagogies will be best suited to meet the educational needs of engineering students. To this end, the authors conducted a mixed methods research study, at a major research institution, wherein a web module was used to compliment a specific engineering concept taught in a traditional, undergraduate geotechnical engineering course. The main purpose of the study looked at how the web module affected student learning as well as their motivation for using or not using the web module. The qualitative instruments of the study included an anonymous online survey in addition to interviews with students as well as the instructor. The quantitative instruments involved a pre- and post-test and a homework assignment. This paper reports how both the students’ and instructor’s ideas about incorporating technology into the class were positively impacted by participating in the study. The results from the research indicate the students who used the web module showed more proficiency with the engineering concept then those students who did not use the web module.


Engineers are known for pushing the envelope of innovation with their cutting edge ideas. In ancient times, when all people had to use for building materials were mud and straw, they tried to reach the sky by building the tower of Babel. Today, in their pursuit of building the tallest buildings, engineers are quite literally scraping the sky with the Sears and Petronas Towers. However, as these buildings stand as a testament to engineering accomplishments, so does the Tower of Pisa lean as a continual reminder that the tools are only as good as the engineer who uses them.

Traditionally, the chalkboard was the main tool engineering instructors used to communicate concepts to their students in the classroom. This lecture-style pedagogy fits well with the philosophy that the instructor was the expert imparting knowledge to the student. Even with the attrition of women and minorities in most engineering programs, this is still the preferred method of teaching1. The current movement within academia is to push more and more traditionally taught classes to an online environment. The main reason for this movement seems to be cost;

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Hug, B., & FitzSimmons, J. (2005, June), Web Modules: New Toys For Engineering Students To Learn With Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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