Dr Barrett Caldwell | A Learner-Centred Design for Online Engineering Courses
About this episode
The COVID-19 pandemic placed pressure on universities to deliver their courses online. While remote learning platforms had already been gaining popularity, the rapid shift that occurred in the first few months of the pandemic revealed the shortcomings of these platforms. For instance, remote learning platforms are often not inclusive of different types of learners, and many students can struggle to stay motivated. Dr Barrett Caldwell and his team at Purdue University devised a new approach that could help to improve online courses in engineering subjects. Read More
The approach builds on Dr Caldwell’s experience while teaching and developing the Perspectives on Systems Engineering course at Purdue University. Systems engineering requires students to learn concepts rooted in different disciplines, recognise connections between these concepts, and ultimately use them to solve engineering problems.
Although the Perspectives on Systems Engineering course was already accessible online before the outbreak of COVID-19, Dr Caldwell’s team developed its online components further during the pandemic. The team’s course is based on three primary universal design frameworks for creating education programs.
The instructional environment should convey course material in an easy and accessible way.
This environment should allow learners to engage with the course material in different ways. The course design also highlights the need to create a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming online learning environment, while leveraging technology to support learning.
The course instructors should clearly convey what the essential parts of the course are.
To be inclusive of all learners, the team’s design also considers different types of students, each with their own level of motivation, attention regulation abilities, learning style, socio-economic background, and prior knowledge. Dr Caldwell’s team wished to accommodate and support all learners, rather than a hypothetical ‘average’ learner.
Towards this aim, their design highlights the need to create dynamic interfaces that can adapt to users. Within this dynamic online learning environment, students perform 2 main types of tasks.
1st type of task:
Learning tasks, through which they acquire or express knowledge, such as watching lectures or taking a quiz.
2nd type of task:
Information searches, which require students to actively explore course material and make connections between concepts.
This new online course framework has so far proved to be very valuable. Students taking Dr Caldwell’s systems engineering course were very satisfied with what they learned, and the flexibility offered by the course. This work could guide the development of similar online engineering programs that meet the unique needs of diverse students.
Original Article Reference
Summary of the papers ‘Learner-Centered Design of Online Courses: A Transdisciplinary Systems Engineering Case Design’, in Transdisciplinarity and the Future of Engineering, doi.org/10.3233/ATDE220696, and ‘Eleven Years, Five Factors: Systems Engineering Education Since IERC 2009’ in Proceedings of the 2020 IISE Annual Conference, 2020.
For further information, you can connect with Professor Barrett Caldwell at email@example.com
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