A Web-Based and Group Learning Environment for Introductory Environmental Engineering
Masten, Susan J., Chen, Kuan-Chung, Graulau, Jaime, Kari, Subhash L., Lee, Kyung-Hyuk, Journal of Engineering Education
The use of computer-based technology is becoming more prevalent in the classroom. As a part of an educational research project sponsored by the GE Foundation, strategies for augmenting a course, Introduction to Environmental Engineering (CE 280), were investigated including cross-disciplinary experiences in teamwork, design, and the use of advanced teaching technologies such as the web. Interactive tools to assist student learning were developed and refined. Efforts have focused on developing an extensive website, web-based quizzes and homework assignments, and tutorials. Base groups were used to provide both intellectual and emotional support to students. This paper summarizes the development of this course and the impact of rapid feedback on the progression of student understanding.
Introduction to Environmental Engineering (CE 280) is a sophomore-level engineering course. This course surveys the various aspects of environmental engineering including, surface and groundwater hydrology, water quality, water and wastewater treatment, hazardous wastes and risk assessment and air pollution. CE 280 is both a general breadth requirement for many engineering majors and a required course for civil engineering, engineering arts and chemical engineering students. It is a suggested technical elective for computer science and engineering, mechanical, biosystems and electrical engineering students. Enrollment for the course is primarily at the junior- and senior-level, with approximately 120-150 students enrolling each semester. Typically, 25 percent of the class are engineering arts majors; 27.9 percent are civil engineering; 7.9 percent are chemical engineering, 16 percent are from other disciplines within the College of Engineering, and 23.2 percent are other majors across the university (data from Spring Semesters 1994 through 2001). In spring semester 1999, 3.4 percent of enrollment was first year students, 17.1 percent was at sophomore-- level, 48 percent was at junior-level, and 31.5 percent was at the senior-level. Thus, faculty who teach CE 280 must combine both the general expectations of various engineering and other departments across the university as well as the requirements for civil engineering majors. Approximately 4 to 5 percent of the students repeat the course. Most of these students claim to repeat the course because they did not apply themselves due to lack of interest in the material.
Core engineering science courses, such as CE 280, represent an initial exposure to engineering for many students and form the foundation for degree requirements for each undergraduate engineering major. As a part of a GE-sponsored educational research project, we investigated strategies for augmenting CE 280 with innovative instructional approaches, including cross-disciplinary experiences in teamwork, design and the use of advanced teaching technologies involving the Worldwide Web. Instruction in CE 280 is being evaluated on several aspects including the following.
1. Improving the quality of the undergraduate student experience by:
* meeting the educational needs of the students by addressing different learning styles;
* fostering community building; and
* incorporating cross-disciplinary material into the curriculum, allowing students to see the relevance of required coursework.
2. Encouraging faculty use of innovative instructional techniques to succeed in meeting the learning objectives. These include:
* delivery of course materials through the internet; development of web-based tutorials to aid in the learning process; and
* development of computer-based material to help students learn the required subject matter and to better track student learning.
3. Systemic change by institutionalizing these forms in the curricula.
The learning objectives were detailed in accordance with requirements of ABET EC 2000. …