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Investigating students perception of some of the key learning activities in T272

  • Project leader(s): Foroogh HosseinzadehAnne-Marie GallenHelen LockettRafael HidalgoMaxim Lamirande
  • Theme: Supporting students
  • Faculty: STEMLDS
  • Status: Archived
  • Dates: May 2021 to March 2023

The purpose of this research is to engage with Stage 2 engineering students, studying T272 Core Engineering B module, about different modes of online activities and how effective these are in engaging, informing, and reinforcing their learning. In T272, students take part in three key activities that are designed to reflect practice and introduce them to content included in future modules; these include Finite Element Analysis (FEA), the OpenEngineering Laboratory (part of the OpenSTEM labs) and interactive online Maths simulations. This project aims to better understand student perceptions about these three sets of activities and determine appropriate next steps to better support this learning. 

To effectively capture and better understand student perceptions about the three activity areas, a three-phase research process was developed. In phase 1, students were asked to complete Real Time Student Feedback (RTSF) questionnaires throughout their T272 module to reflect on the different activities as they happened. A small number of students also took part in semi-structured interviews that explored their understandings and interpretations of the activities more deeply. These methods produced qualitative and quantitative data that supported phase 2. The outputs from Phase 2 led to devising and implementing additional maths tutorials for the following module presentation. These changes responded to concerns raised by students and addressed proposed learning gaps around the understanding of the maths content. For phase 3, RTSF questionnaires were redeployed and semi-structured interviews with new students were conducted in the updated module presentation.

They key findings from this research project were:

  • Overall, the students found the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software ANSYS difficult to use, although tutorials were easy to follow. Only a few students encountered difficulties downloading and using the software. Although completed, the majority did not understand, or could not articulate the purpose of the exercise. Most (perhaps all) students felt unable to use or navigate the software independently, although 14 of the 16 students interviewed did not attempt any of the additional exercises.
  • The OpenEngineering Laboratory (OEL) Pressure Vessel Experiment was enjoyed by students. They were pleased to control the experiment remotely. This helped many bridge theory and practice as well as reflect on the nuances or factors that could influence real-world results. They did not encounter problems comparing the data, but most were unable to explain how theoretical and practical results differ, nor state which is more reliable.
  • Whether students declared that they enjoyed maths or not, they found module content overwhelmingly difficult. None interviewed were able to complete the module without external support such as textbooks, private tutors, or online videos. While students who had recently completed the previous module (T194) found it easier to learn, all students found the content difficult to assimilate. It was reported to lack flow between subjects and to be written in a way that presumed a foundation in maths which they had not yet established.

The knowledge gained from this project will inform future curriculum developments and current presentation practices.

Related Resources: 
File Hosseinzadeh, Gallen, Lockett & Hidalgo poster.pptx463.18 KB

Project poster.