Effective, organized dissemination and assessment of learning tools designed to address common misconceptions and foster learning in engineering courses is crucial. It has been widely shown that students engaged in active learning perform significantly better than those learning passively. Thus, there is currently a movement toward the use of active learning in the classroom. In the current paper, we report on an NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) project that seeks to complement the national efforts. We have developed Low-Cost Desktop Learning Modules (LC-DLMs) which replicate industrial equipment on a small scale and can be used in traditional classroom settings to display fundamental mass and heat transfer concepts in a highly visual format. Studies with existing venturi meter and hydraulic loss LC-DLMs show statistically significant improvement in performance, especially at higher Bloom’s levels of evaluate and create, as well as positive impacts on motivation and self-efficacy for students exposed to the LC-DLM intervention versus those taught fluid mechanics concepts in a lecture-based format. This supports the hypothesis that use of LC-DLMs fosters deeper conceptual understanding.
Based on these results, we are continuing to explore the benefit of LC-DLMs by engaging in a national dissemination effort which will allow a more critical assessment of LC-DLM impact across a wide demographic base. We have begun distributing existing LC-DLM cartridges to institutions nationwide, including minority serving colleges and those located in Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) states, and will continue to expand the dissemination effort over the next several years. Dissemination will be supported with a web-based hotline structure, video tutorials, and worksheet and assessment materials. Additionally, seven regional hub-based workshops over five years, beginning with a workshop for hub coordinators in March 2019, will serve to educate faculty on appropriate use and implementation of LC-DLMs in the classroom, foster local interest, and catalyze the spread of LC-DLMs. Finally, additional LC-DLM cartridges including a miniature fluidized bed and cooling tower are in development. Through these efforts, we hope to gather and critically assess a multitude of evidence supporting the ability of LC-DLMs to improve undergraduate student performance as well as provide the complex support structure required for large-scale adoption of hands-on learning tools encouraging active, collaborative learning in engineering classrooms.
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