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Work in Progress: The Development and Applied Use of Crash Course Engineering Videos for Formal and Informal Learning

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Work in Progress: Assessment, Evaluation and Hands-on Activities

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Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Lucas James Landherr Northeastern University

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Dr. Lucas Landherr is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, conducting research in comics and engineering education.

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Nicole Joy Sweeney Complexly

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The growth of learning tools distributed through the internet has led to a dramatic increase in the number of freely available instructional tools applicable to both formal and informal learning systems. These include experimental module demonstrations, comics, and educational videos. Of particular note are the videos produced by Crash Course, which have created 38 series of Youtube videos, each focusing on individual subjects such as chemistry, history, or theater. The videos utilize animation to help highlight applications and theory, and have accumulated over 1.10 billion views since the first series was launched.

Crash Course: Engineering was a video series developed by Crash Course in association with PBS Digital, covering all fields of engineering in 46 episodes of approximately 10 minutes each. Over the course of the series, the origin of each branch of engineering was discussed, followed by discussion of core concepts of conservation, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, heat and mass transfer, materials, statics, safety and ethics. The series then described applications of the different engineering fields, including robotics, genetic engineering, and signal processing, as well as specific extensions of core engineering fields, such as transportation and geotechnical engineering. The series concluded with an explanation of engineering design, careers in engineering, and the future problems to be solved.

The authors of this paper were part of the collaboration in the development and production of this series, serving as the engineering consultant who produced the syllabus to guide all written content for the series, and as the series' producer, respectively. Between the authors, all writing, filming, animation, and final editing was overseen and directed to ensure proper technical content and a greater degree of accessibility.

With this series having potential use in both high school and undergraduate classes, some of the engineering videos have been integrated into use in curricula as supplemental learning tools. This work will discuss the videos’ audience, some current efforts towards analysis with both formal and informal learning, and future approaches.

Landherr, L. J., & Sweeney, N. J. (2020, June), Work in Progress: The Development and Applied Use of Crash Course Engineering Videos for Formal and Informal Learning Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35691

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