2022 First-Year Engineering Experience

Evaluating Freshmen Engineering Students’ Experience in a First-Year Engineering Program and Lessons Learned during Covid-19 Pandemic

Presented at Technical Session M5B

This is a full paper abstract. The mission of our First-Year Engineering Program (FEP) is to help first year engineering students build a solid foundation for their education. All new students take a common set of classes, dependent upon their initial math placement, which includes an introduction to engineering class. In addition to covering fundamentals of engineering topics, this class introduces different engineering fields allowing students to make an informed choice of major. However, FEP is more than just a set of classes. It also provides orientation, peer mentoring, tutoring and supplemental instruction, academic advising, basic career advising, and academic skills development. Historically, FEP has provided social opportunities for students to encourage building peer relationships from the start.
Our university pivoted to online learning during spring 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. FEP returned in fall 2020 with hybrid class models in Introduction to Engineering courses where students could choose to attend in-person or remotely. Classrooms returned to fully in-person learning in fall 2021. The goal of this paper is to explain the adjustments in Introduction to Engineering courses and explore the differences in student performance in these courses before, during, and after Covid-19 related adjustments. We will examine the students’ grade distributions with a specific interest in any changes in the DFW (grades of D, F, and withdrawal) rates. We will also compare course and instructor ratings for the courses before, during and after pandemic-related course adjustments.
While we suspect that the student learning and performance suffered during 2020-2021 academic year due to online and hybrid delivery methods, we also have observed a shift in student attitudes and expectations after returning to our normal, in-person delivery method in 2021-2022 academic year. We anticipate that this shift requires us to adjust our course content and course delivery in future semesters. We will examine positive learning experiences that resulted from changes in the course mandated by the pandemic and look for opportunities to marry historical elements of the program with newer, well-received practices to create the most suitable learning experience for our students.

  1. Dr. Heath Aren Schluterman University of Arkansas [biography]
  2. Dr. Aysa Galbraith University of Arkansas [biography]
  3. Mrs. Leslie Bartsch Massey University of Arkansas [biography]
  4. Dr. Candace Auburn Rainwater University of Arkansas
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