The Internet provides an excellent framework for learning, communication, information exchange, and collaboration in engineering education. This existing electronic infrastructure was integrated into an undergraduate environmental engineering course in atmospheric physics and chemistry to foster discussion of course topics, peer evaluation, and collaborative learning. Four major Internet-based learning tools were utilized to accomplish these objectives: 1) electronic copies of partial notes allowed students to remain engaged during class, 2) an electronic bulletin board enabled interactive discussion and peer evaluation of work, 3) multimedia assignments required students to retrieve information and direct their learning, 4) publicly accessible and peer-reviewed Internetbased term project reports provided motivation for quality and creative work. Student response to these new approaches was overwhelmingly positive, although preferences vary with learning style. While students assess many Internet-based learning approaches as useful, conventional educational approaches are still viewed as important components to successful learning.
While the Internet has provided an information infrastructure for decades, primarily at universities, the more recent multimedia Internet interface, the World Wide Web, has connected the Internet to desktops everywhere. Universities are well equipped to utilize the web as an educational resource. The Internet infrastructure exists, computer networks are commonplace, and the software tools are abundant and easy-to-use. It is not surprising that many university faculty have begun to utilize the Internet as a medium for instruction.1,2 On-line syllabi, lecture notes, and assignments are becoming more common, as faculty learn to adapt traditional paperbound techniques to this new electronic format. Unfortunately, most of these efforts are simply a new way of doing old educational approaches. The Internet provides unique capabilities for multimedia, interactive, collaborative, and distance learning. Engineering education would benefit from appropriate implementation of such capabilities.
The project described in this paper was motivated by several factors. First, the environmental engineering program at Michigan Technological University is one of the largest programs in the United States with approximately 250 undergraduate and 50 graduate students. In addition, environmental engineering classes at Michigan Tech typically attract many non-majors. This results in large class sizes. Large classes usually restrict open dialogue and cooperative learning.3 Second, a new junior-level environmental engineering course, Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, was added in the spring 1995 quarter, as part of a newly redesigned undergraduate curriculum. This offered a unique opportunity to integrate new instructional methods into the class. Last, personal accountability among students is often absent in most classes. Peer collaboration and evaluation are strong motivators for excellence.
This paper first describes the project objectives. Next, the motivation and methods for four Internet-based instructional tools are described. Assessment methods and results are then addressed. Finally, effectiveness and impacts are assessed.
II. PRoJECT OBJECTIVES
The Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry course, created in 1995, was designed to integrate new content and new educational approaches in the environmental engineering curriculum. Such methods were to satisfy the following class objectives:
Encourage collaborative, student-led, learning
Foster peer evaluation
Promote discussion of course topics before, during, and after class
Offer a variety of learning environments
Several Internet-based learning tools (IBLTs) were integrated with the class to couple rapidly changing course content to rapidly changing computer capabilities. …