Incremental Cost Analysis of First-Year Course Innovations

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Raman, D.
Haughery, John
Raman, D. Raj
Haughery, John
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Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringCenter for Biorenewable Chemicals

Many experiences in engineering education boast positive gains to students’ learning and achievement. However, current literature is less clear on the economic costs associated with these efforts, or methods for performing said analyses. To address this gap, we proposed a structured approach to analyzing the incremental costs associated with an experience in engineering education. This method was modeled after those found in medicine and early childhood education. We illustrated our methodology using marginal (above baseline) time and cost ingredients that were collected during the development, pilot, and steady-state phases of a mechatronic experience in a first-year undergraduate engineering technology course. Specifically, our method included descriptive analysis, Pareto analysis, and cost per capacity estimate analysis, the latter of which has received limited discussion in current cost analysis literature. The purpose of our illustrated explanation was to provide a clear method for incremental cost analyses of experiences in engineering education.We found that the development, pilot, and steady-state phases cost just over $17.1k (approximately $12.4k for personnel and approximately $4.7k for equipment), based on 2015 US$ and an enrollment capacity of 121 students. Cost vs. capacity scaled at a factor of – 0.64 (y = 3,121x–0.64, R2 = 0.99), which was within the 95% interval for personnel and capital commonly observed in the chemical processing industry. Based on a four-year operational life and a range of 20–400 students per year, we estimated per seat total costs to range from roughly $70–$470, with our mechatronic experience averaging just under $150 per seat. Notably, the development phase cost, as well as the robot chassis and microcontroller capital cost were the primary cost terms of this intervention.


This article is published as Haughery, John R., and D. Raj Raman "Incremental Cost Analysis of First-Year Course Innovations" International Journal of Engineering Education 35, no. 1(A) (2019): 209-220. Posted with permission.