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Using multimedia and "active learning" techniques to "energize" an introductory engineering thermodynamics class

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1 Author(s)
Byerley, A.R. ; Dept. of Aeronaut., USAF Acad., CO, USA

This paper describes an effort to "energize" an introductory engineering thermodynamics class that is a part of the core curriculum that all cadets at the USAF Academy must take before they graduate. The fact that humanities majors as well as engineering majors must take this course presents several interesting challenges for the instructor. Making the material "come alive" and seem "relevant" is always important but particularly so for the humanities majors who often do not wish to be enrolled in the course. This need to "humanize" the subject material must be balanced against the needs of the engineering majors who must have sufficient rigor to be successful in follow-on thermal science courses. The efforts made to satisfy these competing needs and to improve the learning experience fell into two categories: (1) laptop-based multimedia; and (2) "active learning" techniques. The laptop-based multimedia elements included photos, videos and news that in some way helped to introduce or illustrate important lesson topics. This material was gathered from a variety of sources including the web, magazines, newspapers, former students and fellow instructors. The "active learning" techniques included 'think-pair-share', pseudo-TV game show sessions and group boardwork. The effectiveness of these efforts was assessed using both formal and informal student feedback mechanisms, test scores, and instructor observations. The assessment results from this semester were compared to the author's results from an earlier semester. Improvements in both student performance and in student satisfaction were achieved. Furthermore, from the author's perspective, the course was more satisfying to teach. The experience described in this paper may be helpful to other instructors who seek straightforward techniques for boosting student performance and satisfaction

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference, 2001. 31st Annual  (Volume:1 )

Date of Conference:

2001