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Work in Progress: Active Learning Techniques for Online Teaching of Chemical Engineering Courses

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Works in Progress in Chemical Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Erick S. Vasquez University of Dayton

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Erick S. Vasquez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Dayton. Dr. Vasquez earned his B.Sc. degree in chemical engineering at Universidad Centroamericana Jose Simeon Cañas (UCA) in El Salvador. He received his M.Sc. degree in chemical engineering from Clemson University and his Ph.D. degree in chemical engineering from Mississippi State University. His research focuses on nanomaterials' development and applications in separation processes and the design of advanced composite materials. About engineering educational research, Vasquez is working on the analysis of assessment methods to improve teamwork, open-ended laboratory experiments, active learning, and implementing computational tools to understand chemical engineering concepts. Vasquez has a vast experience teaching the Unit Operation Laboratories for six years and has taught many other junior-level chemical engineering courses.

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Michael J. Elsass University of Dayton

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Michael Elsass is the Director of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Dayton. He received his B.Ch.E in chemical engineering from the University of Dayton and his M.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from The Ohio State University. He then served two years as a post-doctoral researcher at both The Ohio State University and UCLA. His research interests are process systems engineering, process diagnosis, and simulation and modeling. He has instructed the Unit Operations Laboratory for four years.

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Many active learning techniques have been implemented during in-person classes to engage students in understanding chemical engineering concepts. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, chemical engineering educators were forced to switch their courses to an online modality, impacting the delivery of active learning. For example, hyflex learning combines both in-person and online teaching as a new standard, challenging student learning experience on different levels. In this study, the implementation of active learning techniques is discussed for asynchronous and synchronous online teaching, including hyflex chemical engineering courses delivered to junior-level students. The authors present specific examples of implementing active learning techniques during asynchronous and synchronous teaching modalities. The instructors produced interactive videos for asynchronous teaching for traditional lecture-based courses, such as fluid flow and heat transfer processes. The authors highlight the use of video recording software to make high-quality asynchronous videos, including free, open-source software such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to overlay the instructor in these videos. This study also discusses the implementation of traditional "handouts with gaps" during asynchronous teaching as an effective tool for active learning. The authors provide tips about software and applications that can produce "handouts with gaps" videos for students taking online courses. Students also prepared high-quality videos during asynchronous online learning via open-ended take-home projects. Students were tasked to apply concepts learned during the online lectures in applied problems involving experiments and simulations for fluid flow and heat transfer courses. For this project, students recorded their final project presentations, and these were available to all the students taking the online class. Students then ranked their favorite presentations, which was consistent with instructor grades. Hyflex and synchronous learning happen in real-time and need active learning techniques to maintain student engagement. Placing students in small groups (3 – 4) helps engage in active discussions of problems or technical questions. This study discusses the potential benefits and drawbacks of this technique during live online sessions. Additionally, learning game-based platforms or multiple-choice quizzes were facilitated to maintain student engagement. For example, a modified Jigsaw collaborative learning technique was implemented to expert groups of 4 -5 students, where each group was tasked to produce a 1-page memorandum and a brief talk about a given topic. The experience was recorded online so that students could later have access to their peers' presentations. The instructors added the students' summaries to the online learning management system of the course. While this was well generally received, students did have concerns over preparing videos and hesitancy in learning from peers. Advantages and disadvantages exist for asynchronous and synchronous online learning. It is, therefore, imperative to maintain students' engagement during their learning experiences. Engineering educators can use the tools and techniques presented in any engineering course, whether remote or in-person. Student surveys were used to understand the applicability and effectiveness of these techniques in the online classroom and remote learning experience.

Vasquez, E. S., & Elsass, M. J. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Active Learning Techniques for Online Teaching of Chemical Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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