Electronic Tools for Student Engagement in Introductory Engineering

Sunday, November 7, 2010
Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Joshua A. Enszer, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN

The primary goal of our undergraduate program is to produce engineers who are one step ahead of their peers, who have begun to prepare themselves for more than just their entry-level jobs. In order to accomplish this, we seek improvements to the educational process outside the classroom and ways to encourage students to have a more direct role in their own personal development. I present here overviews of two electronic projects designed to meet this goal.

An electronic portfolio is a collection of electronic files that is created and maintained by a user as evidence of professional development. As a portion of the academic advising experience, the Notre Dame e-Portfolio (NDeP) project [1,2] includes tools to document academic and professional progress in a way that allows for organization and easy presentation. The e-portfolio serves as a tool to make communication between students and advisers more efficient, and to help students formulate short- and long-term plans for their own career development. The NDeP project makes use of Google Apps to help students create their own e-portfolio site and manage their electronic documentation. This includes a set of surveys designed to help students consider their academic coursework, in which we also have students assess their own progress in the program. The survey addresses the six main tools every engineer in our program should have: analytical and problem solving skills, comprehension of engineering concepts, understanding of technical problems, communication skills, creativity and independence, and organizational skills. For each tool, students are asked to consider what deliverable proof exists that demonstrates their current proficiency. These artifacts can be electronically archived on their own NDeP site.

Educational literature on video games has discussed the idea that good games can promote beneficial learning opportunities [3]. Students are engaged in learning in such an environment, which promotes ideas of identity (a required personal commitment to achieve a goal), interaction (such as “just-in-time learning” through the game interface), production (control over the outcome of a scenario), and risk taking (but without the danger of failing a course!). I present here prototypical screenshots from a chemical engineering “game” that allows students to explore the basics of material and energy balances. The game is designed to increase in complexity and freedom through a series of levels that gradually drop assumptions and restrictions on models including systems of storage tanks, mixers, separators, and reactors.

I present here the current progress and future goals of the NDeP program, including information from the pilot group of students and plans to improve the implementation for this year's incoming students, making the process more interactive for both students and faculty. I also present the current and future work on the chemical engineering game, including plans to add material for higher level chemical engineering courses and making connections to common industrial simulation software.

[1] J. A. Kuczenski, J. A. Enszer, M. J. McCready, J. B. Brockman, X. Duan, and P. Turner. "Student Electronic Portfolios for Professional Development Using Google Apps." Presented at the 2009 AIChE Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN, 8-13 Nov 2009.

[2] J. A. Kuczenski, J. A. Enszer, M. J. McCready, and J. B. Brockman. "Student Electronic Portfolios for Professional Development Using Google Apps." Presented at the 2010 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, KY, 20-23 June 2010.

[3] J. P. Gee. Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies). New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2007.

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