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WIP: The Impact of Human-Centered Design Modules on Students’ Learning in an Introduction to Electronics Course

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

DEED Technical Session 11 Empathy and Human-Centered Design 2

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Saadeddine Shehab University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Saadeddine Shehab is currently the Head of Assessment and Research at the Siebel Center for Design (SCD) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He works with a group of undergraduate and graduate SCD scholars at SCD’s Assessment and Research Laboratory to conduct research that informs and evaluates the practice of teaching and learning human-centered design in formal and informal learning environments. His research focuses on studying students’ collaborative problem-solving processes and the role of the teacher in facilitating these processes in STEM classrooms that feature the learning of STEM through design.

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Sneha Subramanian

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Jake Fava University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Christopher Schmitz University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a problem solving approach that uses design thinking tools to identify the unmet needs of a population in order to collaboratively and iteratively develop meaningful and innovative solutions. Research studies continue to show that engaging engineering students in HCD experiences can positively influence their development of 21st century mindsets such as human-centeredness, metacognition, collaboration, communication, creativity, and experimentation. These mindsets overlap with the learning outcomes set by ABET’s accreditation criteria that outline engineering graduates outcomes for engaging in the professional practice of engineering. Nevertheless, the field still lacks empirical studies that describe how HCD activities are designed and integrated in existing higher education engineering courses, then, measures the impact of these activities on students’ learnings.

This Work-In-Progress study describes and evaluates the design and integration of HCD modules into an existing Introduction to Electrical Engineering course. The study adopts a mixed methods design-based research methodology to measure the impact of these modules on students’ understanding of HCD and its role in engineering, and development of the collaborative and communicative mindsets. The engineering course introduced students to selected fundamental concepts and principles in electrical engineering through virtual lectures and laboratory sessions. Two design strategists met with the course instructor before the beginning of the semester and designed two HCD modules that were integrated into the course curriculum. The first module aimed at engaging students in activities to learn about how to consider others’ perspectives and document assumptions prior to interviewing users. The second module aimed at engaging students in storytelling activities. At the end of both modules each student reflected on their participation in the module to assess their learnings. The students completed the two modules during two different synchronous virtual laboratory sessions. Each module was shared with the students in the form of a worksheet. A pre and post survey was administered to measure the impact of the modules on students’ learnings.

One hundred and seventy-eight students took the pre and post surveys. To rate students’ responses to the open-ended questions, we adapted and applied three coding schemes. Results indicated improvement in students’ understanding of HCD, its processes and their role in engineering design. To compare students’ response to the Likert scale items, we conducted paired sample t-tests that indicated significant differences only in students’ knowledge of performing the HCD processes that aim at understanding an engineering design problem and the group skills associated with the collaborative mindset, but not the presentation skills associated with the communicative mindset. Future iterations of these modules must incorporate more activities that explicitly target students’ development of presentation skills. Future iterations of the course must include more HCD modules with reflective practices so students can develop a more informed understanding of HCD and its role in engineering design.

Shehab, S., & Subramanian, S., & Fava, J., & Schmitz, C. (2022, August), WIP: The Impact of Human-Centered Design Modules on Students’ Learning in an Introduction to Electronics Course Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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