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When Multimedia Doesn't Work: An Assessment Of Visualization Modules For Learning Enhancement In Mechanics

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.725.1 - 5.725.18



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Paper Authors

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Marty Bowe

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John Feland

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Brian Self

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Daniel Jensen

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

Session 2268

When Multimedia Doesn’t Work: An Assessment of Visualization Modules for Learning Enhancement in Mechanics Martin Bowe , Dan Jensen, John Feland, Brian Self Department of Engineering Mechanics USAF Academy, CO 80840


Engineering mechanics education is currently undergoing a transformation from strictly lecture- based education to a format where a variety of innovative learning techniques are used. Techniques for enhancing student learning as well as concrete data establishing the effectiveness of these techniques are needed. This paper builds on previous work using innovative teaching tools by developing and assessing our current use of computer-based visualizations. This was done in our Fall 1999 Engineering Mechanics core course which is taken by all cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, regardless of their major. The visualization content consists of Powerpoint presentations designed to enhance understanding of specific abstract concepts. The presentations are finite element-based stress results displayed in color formats. The visualizations emphasize aspects of stress analysis which our students have traditionally found difficult to grasp. Evaluation of the enhancement in student learning brought about by use of these tools has been accomplished by a variety of assessment techniques. Our current work focuses solely on the computer-based visualization tools and vastly expands the assessment of these tools over what we had done previously. Results were counter to the initial hypothesis, but provided extremely valuable information with regard to enhancing the classroom environment for introductory mechanics. Assessment shows that overall the students actually disliked the use of these tools for very concrete reasons and improvement in overall learning and comprehension was statistically insignificant. These results will certainly shape the way our introductory mechanics instruction is conducted and carry significant value when trying to determine methods to enhance the classroom environment.

1. Introduction

The Fundamentals of Mechanics course (Fall Semester 1999) at the United States Air Force Academy was used as a testing ground for introducing and assessing the effectiveness of visual learning aids. The course combines statics and strength of materials at an introductory level for all students regardless of major (this will turn out to be a very significant point that must be kept in mind). Typically, the concepts of stress in objects caused by torsion, bending, and combined loading are among the most difficult for students to grasp. For these topics, “enhanced learning modules” were developed to bring visualization learning aids into the classroom experience.

The initial study4 (Fall 1998) attempted to correlate the effects of these modules with a student’s learning preference or personality type. Learning preferences were determined from an assessment method known as VARK, while the personality type designation was

Bowe, M., & Feland, J., & Self, B., & Jensen, D. (2000, June), When Multimedia Doesn't Work: An Assessment Of Visualization Modules For Learning Enhancement In Mechanics Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8849

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