skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on June 26, 2023

Title: The concerns and perceived challenges students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning
This research evaluates the impact of switching college engineering courses from in-person instruction to emergency remote learning among engineering students at a university in the Midwest. The study aimed to answer the question: What were the concerns and perceived challenges students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning? The goal of this study is to uncover the challenges students were facing in engineering online courses and to understand students’ concerns. Our findings can help improve teaching instruction to provide students with previously unavailable educational assistance for online engineering courses. We collected online survey responses during weeks 8 and 9 of the academic semester, shortly after the COVID-19 shutdown and emergency transition to remote learning in Spring 2020. The survey included two open-ended questions which inquired about students’ feedback about moving the class online, and one two-item scale which assessed students’ confidence in online engineering learning. Data analysis for the open-ended questions was guided by the theoretical framework - Social Cognitive Career Theory [1] that explores how context, person factors and social cognitions contribute to career goals, interests and actions. A phenomenological approach [2] was conducted to understand the experience of these students. Open coding and axial more » coding [2] methods were used to create initial categories then themes related to students' concerns and challenges. Data from the two-item scale was evaluated using descriptive statistics: means, standard deviations, and ranges. Four main themes with separate sub-categories emerged from the student responses: 1) Instructor’s ability to teach course online (Instructional limitations, Seeking help, Increased Workload), 2) Student’s ability to learn online (Time Management, Lower engagement and motivation, Harder to absorb material, Hard to focus, Worry about performance), 3) Difficulties outside of class (Technology issues), and 4) No concerns. Students seemed more concerned about their ability to learn the material (48% of responses) than the instructor’s ability to teach the material (36% of responses). The instructional limitations or lack of instructional support (22% of responses) and time management (12% of responses) were among the major concerns in the sub-categories. The results from two-item scale indicated participants' s confidence in their ability to master their classroom knowledge was at an intermediate level via online instruction (6/10), and participants' confidence in the instructor's ability to teach knowledge in online classes is moderate to high (7/10). The results align with the open-ended question response in which students were somewhat more concerned about their ability to learn than the instructor’s ability to teach. The themes and analysis will be a valuable tool to help institutions and instructors improve student learning experiences. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1926480
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10352035
Journal Name:
2022 ASEE Annual Conference
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Many undergraduate students encounter struggle as they navigate academic, financial, and social contexts of higher education. The transition to emergency online instruction during the Spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these struggles. To assess college students’ struggles during the transition to online learning in undergraduate biology courses, we surveyed a diverse collection of students ( n = 238) at an R2 research institution in the Southeastern United States. Students were asked if they encountered struggles and whether they were able to overcome them. Based on how students responded, they were asked to elaborate on (1) how they persevered without struggle, (2) how they were able to overcome their struggles, or (3) what barriers they encountered that did not allow them to overcome their struggles. Each open-ended response was thematically coded to address salient patterns in students’ ability to either persevere or overcome their struggle. We found that during the transition to remote learning, 67% of students experienced struggle. The most reported struggles included: shifts in class format, effective study habits, time management, and increased external commitments. Approximately, 83% of those struggling students were able to overcome their struggle, most often citing their instructor’s support and resources offeredmore »during the transition as reasons for their success. Students also cited changes in study habits, and increased confidence or belief that they could excel within the course as ways in which they overcame their struggles. Overall, we found no link between struggles in the classroom and any demographic variables we measured, which included race/ethnicity, gender expression, first-generation college students, transfer student status, and commuter student status. Our results highlight the critical role that instructors play in supporting student learning during these uncertain times by promoting student self-efficacy and positive-growth mindset, providing students with the resources they need to succeed, and creating a supportive and transparent learning environment.« less
  2. COVID-19 has altered the landscape of teaching and learning. For those in in-service teacher education, workshops have been suspended causing programs to adapt their professional development to a virtual space to avoid indefinite postponement or cancellation. This paradigm shift in the way we conduct learning experiences creates several logistical and pedagogical challenges but also presents an important opportunity to conduct research about how learning happens in these new environments. This paper describes the approach we took to conduct research in a series of virtual workshops aimed at teaching rural elementary teachers about engineering practices and how to teach a unit from an engineering curriculum. Our work explores how engineering concepts and practices are socially constructed through interactions with teachers, students, and artifacts. This approach, called interactional ethnography has been used by the authors and others to learn about engineering teaching and learning in precollege classrooms. The approach relies on collecting data during instruction, such as video and audio recordings, interviews, and artifacts such as journal entries and photos of physical designs. Findings are triangulated by analyzing these data sources. This methodology was going to be applied in an in-person engineering education workshop for rural elementary teachers, however the pandemic forcedmore »us to conduct the workshops remotely. Teachers, working in pairs, were sent workshop supplies, and worked together during the training series that took place over Zoom over four days for four hours each session. The paper describes how we collected video and audio of teachers and the facilitators both in whole group and in breakout rooms. Class materials and submissions of photos and evaluations were managed using Google Classroom. Teachers took photos of their work and scanned written materials and submitted them all by email. Slide decks were shared by the users and their group responses were collected in real time. Workshop evaluations were collected after each meeting using Google Forms. Evaluation data suggest that the teachers were engaged by the experience, learned significantly about engineering concepts and the knowledge-producing practices of engineers, and feel confident about applying engineering activities in their classrooms. This methodology should be of interest to the membership for three distinct reasons. First, remote instruction is a reality in the near-term but will likely persist in some form. Although many of us prefer to teach in person, remote learning allows us to reach many more participants, including those living in remote and rural areas who cannot easily attend in-person sessions with engineering educators, so it benefits the field to learn how to teach effectively in this way. Second, it describes an emerging approach to engineering education research. Interactional ethnography has been applied in precollege classrooms, but this paper demonstrates how it can also be used in teacher professional development contexts. Third, based on our application of interactional ethnography to an education setting, readers will learn specifically about how to use online collaborative software and how to collect and organize data sources for research purposes.« less
  3. The pandemic of COVID-19 is disrupting engineering education globally, at all levels of education.While distance education is nothing new, the pandemic of COVID-19 forced instructors to rapidly move their courses online whether or not they had ever received prior training in online education. In particular, there is very little literature to guide instructors in supporting students in online engineering design or project-based courses. The purpose of this research is to examine engineering students’ report of social support in their project and design-based courses at a large research university during the move to online instruction due to COVID-19in the Spring 2020 semester and to provide recommendations for instructors teaching these types of courses online in the future.Our study is framed by social constructivism and social capital theory.We surveyed undergraduate engineering and engineering technology students(n=235) across undergraduate levels during the final week of the Spring 2019 semester.Survey questions included open-ended prompts about social supports and overall experience with the transition to online learning as well as name and resource generator questions focused on specific people and types of interactions that changed during the pandemic. We used qualitative content analysis of the open-ended responses along with comparisons of the name and resource generatormore »to develop recommendations for instructors.Recommendations to increase students’ social supports include:facilitating informal conversations between students and between students and the instructional team, grouping students located in the same time zones in teams, facilitating co-working sessions for students, establishing weekly structure, and utilizing some synchronous components (e.g., virtual office hours).« less
  4. This research paper studies the challenges that mathematics faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) faced when moving active and collaborative calculus courses from in-person to virtual instruction. As part of a larger pedagogical change project (described below), the math department at a public Research-1 university began transitioning pre-calculus and calculus courses to an active and collaborative learning (ACL) format in Fall 2019. The change began with the introduction of collaborative worksheets in recitations which were led by GTAs and supported by undergraduate learning assistants (LAs). Students recitation periods collaboratively solving the worksheet problems on whiteboards. When COVID-19 forced the rapid transition to online teaching, these ACL efforts faced an array of challenges. Faculty and GTA reflections on the changes to teaching and learning provide insight into how instructional staff can be supported in implementing ACL across various modes of instruction. The calculus teaching change efforts discussed in this paper are part of an NSF-supported project that aims to make ACL the default method of instruction in highly enrolled gateway STEM courses across the institution. The theoretical framework for the project builds on existing work on grassroots change in higher education (Kezar and Lester, 2011) to study the effect of communitiesmore »of practice on changing teaching culture. The project uses course-based communities of practice (Wenger, 1999) that include instructors, GTAs, and LAs working together to design and enact teaching change in the targeted courses alongside ongoing professional development for GTAs and LAs. Six faculty and five GTAs involved in the teaching change effort in mathematics were interviewed after the Spring 2020 semester ended. Interview questions focused on faculty and GTA experiences implementing active learning after the rapid transition to online teaching. A grounded coding scheme was used to identify common themes in the challenges faced by instructors and GTAs as they moved online and in the impacts of technology, LA support, and the department community of practice on the move to online teaching. Technology, including both access and capabilities, emerged as a common barrier to student engagement. A particular barrier was students’ reluctance to share video or participate orally in sessions that were being recorded, making group work more difficult than it had been in a physical classroom. In addition, most students lacked access to a tablet for freehand writing, presenting a significant hurdle for sharing mathematical notation when physical whiteboards were no longer an option. These challenges point to the importance of incorporating flexibility in active learning implementation and in the professional development that supports teaching changes toward active learning, since what is conceived for a collaborative physical classroom may be implemented in a much different environment. The full paper will present a detailed analysis of the data to better understand how faculty and GTA experiences in the transition to online delivery can inform planning and professional development as the larger institutional change effort moves forward both in mathematics and in other STEM fields.« less
  5. This research paper describes a study of elementary teacher learning in an online graduate program in engineering education for in-service teachers. While the existing research on teachers in engineering focuses on their disciplinary understandings and beliefs (Hsu, Cardella, & Purzer, 2011; Martin, et al., 2015; Nadelson, et al., 2015; Van Haneghan, et al., 2015), there is increasing attention to teachers' pedagogy in engineering (Capobianco, Delisi, & Radloff, 2018). In our work, we study teachers' pedagogical sense-making and reflection, which, we argue, is critical for teaching engineering design. This study takes place in [blinded] program, in which teachers take four graduate courses over fifteen months. The program was designed to help teachers not only learn engineering content, but also shift their thinking and practice to be more responsive to their students. Two courses focus on pedagogy, including what it means to learn engineering and instructional approaches to support this learning. These courses consist of four main elements, in which teachers: 1) Read data-rich engineering education articles to reflect on learning engineering; 2) Participate in online video clubs, looking at classroom videos of students’ engineering and commenting on what they notice; 3) Conduct interviews with learners about the mechanism of a pull-backmore »car; and 4) Plan and teach engineering lessons, collecting and analyzing video from their classrooms. In the context of this program, we ask: what stances do teachers take toward learning and teaching engineering design? What shifts do we observe in their stances? We interviewed teachers at the start of the program and after each course. In addition to reflecting on their learning and teaching, teachers watched videos of students’ engineering and discussed what they saw as relevant for teaching engineering. We informally compared summaries from previous interviews to get a sense of changes in how participants talked about engineering, how they approached teaching engineering, and what they noticed in classroom videos. Through this process, we identified one teacher to focus on for this paper: Alma is a veteran 3rd-5th grade science teacher in a rural, racially-diverse public school in the southeastern region of the US. We then developed content logs of Alma's interviews and identified emergent themes. To refine these themes, we looked for confirming and disconfirming evidence in the interviews and in her coursework in the program. We coded each interview for these themes and developed analytic memos, highlighting where we saw variability and stability in her stances and comparing across interviews to describe shifts in Alma's reasoning. It was at this stage that we narrowed our focus to her stances toward the engineering design process (EDP). In this paper, we describe and illustrate shifts we observed in Alma's reasoning, arguing that she exhibited dramatic shifts in her stances toward teaching and learning the EDP. At the start of the program, she was stable in treating the EDP as a series of linear steps that students and engineers progress through. After engaging and reflecting on her own engineering in the first course, she started to express a more fluid stance when talking more abstractly about the EDP but continued to take it up as a linear process in her classroom teaching. By the end of the program, Alma exhibited a growing stability across contexts in her stance toward the EDP as a fluid set of overlapping practices that students and engineers could engage in.« less