Development of a CD-ROM in Thin Film Technologies: Design, Usability Assessment, and Challenges

By Babu, S. V.; Suni, I. I. et al. | Journal of Engineering Education, January 1, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Development of a CD-ROM in Thin Film Technologies: Design, Usability Assessment, and Challenges

Babu, S. V., Suni, I. I., Rasmussen, D. H., Journal of Engineering Education


This paper describes our educational experiences along with those of the students who participated in the implementation and assessment of our National Science Foundation (NSF) Combined Research-Curriculum Development (CRCD) project entitled "Thin film technologies: combined research and curriculum development." The objective of the project was "the presentation, evaluation and dissemination of the themes" underlying thin film technologies "utilizing menu-driven, easily accessible, self-contained, interactive learning modules delivered in a CD-ROM format." The design methodologies chosen and the challenges faced in creating the CD-ROM are described briefly along with some typical screen images seen by the user. The results of a series of assessments of some sections of the hypermedia product by a group of students are also presented. A correlation was found between the improvement in their performance on a 10 question pre- and post-CD-ROM study quiz and Kolb learning style preferences as well as their self-reported ability in physics and three-dimensional visualization. Student performance on questions related to numerical problem solving could be improved by employing a navigational strategy of adaptive computer control rather than complete user control. This strategy largely preserved navigational control for the students but required them to pass a quiz at the end of a section of material.


Thin films and coatings are ubiquitous in many disciplines in engineering and medicine. The films may consist of pure metals or alloys, polymers, ceramics, diamondlike materials, composites, etc., and may range in thickness from several nanometers to several millimeters. The films may be electrically or thermally conducting or insulating, rigid or flexible, porous or impervious, slowly dissolving or hermetic, transparent or opaque, etc. The film structures may be single or multi-layered. The applications are just as diverse and are studied by a large fraction of students at any university, both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Some aspects of thin film technologies are taught at Clarkson University in a variety of courses, including Introduction to Materials Science, Advanced Materials Science, Microelectronic Circuit Fabrication, Packaging of Electronics, Colloids and Interfaces, Fine Particle Technology, Corrosion Engineering, Electrochemistry, Mechanical behavior of Materials, Surface Reactivity, etc. In any case, the entire field of thin film technologies is technically complex and quite challenging.

In spite of the complexity associated with thin film technologies, we felt, based on our collective research and pedagogical experience, that these technologies can be described and learned based on a few underlying fundamental principles. At the start of our project about three years ago, when the CDROM format with multimedia capabilities was still relatively novel, we selected it as the medium of choice for presenting these principles for future learning by college students and, perhaps, even by practitioners in different industries. Our expectation was that the current generation of high school students will be exposed to and become comfortable with using multimedia technologies before entering college. Although much of the early multimedia and hypermedia development involved social science and the humanities, some instructional material has also been recently developed for chemical engineering curricula.1-3

Furthermore, CD-ROM modules, with well-designed animations, simulations and other graphic descriptions, can also provide a safe and inexpensive method for training students and, perhaps, new employees in the operation of the laboratory equipment associated with thin film technologies. Invariably, these experimental systems are hazardous and very expensive. For example, a compact chemical vapor deposition (CVD) reactor with all the accessories and diagnostic equipment costs several hundreds of thousands of dollars while a x-ray photoelectron spectrometer may cost even more.

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Development of a CD-ROM in Thin Film Technologies: Design, Usability Assessment, and Challenges


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