Applicability of online education to large undergraduate engineering courses
With the increase in undergraduate engineering enrollment, many universities have chosen to teach introductory engineering courses such as Statics of Engineering and Mechanics of Materials in large classes due to budget limitations. With the overwhelming literature against traditionally taught large classes, this study aims to see the effects of the trending online pedagogy. Online courses are the latest trend in education due to the flexibility they provide to students in terms of schedule and pace of learning with the added advantage of being less expensive for the university over a period. In this research, the effects of online lectures on engineering students’ course performances and students’ attitudes towards online learning were examined.
Specifically, the academic performances of students enrolled in a traditionally taught, lecture format Mechanics of Materials course with the performance of students in an online Mechanics of Materials course in summer 2016 were compared. To see the effect of the two different teaching approaches across student types, students were categorized by gender, enrollment status, nationality, and by the grades students obtained for Statics, one of the prerequisite courses for Mechanics of Materials. Student attitudes towards the online course will help to keep the process of continuously improving the online course, specifically, to provide quality education through the online medium in terms of course content and delivery.
The findings of the study show that the online pedagogy negatively affects student academic performance when compared to the traditional face-to-face pedagogy across all categories, except for the high scoring students. Student attitudes reveal that while they enjoyed the flexibility schedule and control over their pace of studying, they faced issues with self-regulation and face-to-face interaction.