Special Forum and Seminar: Impact of Social Networking on Engineering Pedagogy
This half-day event focused on the ineffective study strategies that students are now using to pass engineering courses. Enabled by technology and social networking, these approaches are relatively new and their long-term impacts have not yet been fully realized. However, it is clear that they do not produce the desired level of core knowledge and problem-solving skills. The results of several successful pilot studies to enhance learning in this environment were also discussed.
The current approaches that students take to pass a class are dominated by two growing practices, neither of which contributes to the desired student outcomes. The first practice is the copying of homework solutions from online resources. Collaboration on homework has occurred at some level since graded homework was introduced, but the practice of purely copying homework without even thinking about its substance is now so widespread that many have concluded there is no value in assigning course credit for homework.
More alarming is the second practice, in which students memorize the solution for a specific example problem and then reproduce parts of that solution for any similar problem on an exam. The goal of this is to maximize partial credit rather than to actually solve the problem at hand. This strategy works so well because partial credit has steadily become so generous that many students no longer feel the need to solve problems completely or correctly.
In many cases, the desired grade in a class can now be obtained through a combination of copying online solutions to obtain a nearly perfect homework score and maximizing partial credit on exams by memorizing a few example problems. It is possible for a student to successfully pass a class without correctly solving even a single engineering problem; in fact, we maintain that this is now widespread.
The net effect of these two practices is that the level of learning is well below what is expected and much lower than our assessment methods indicate. Cognitive scientists have determined that learning requires struggle, and the current study strategies used by students minimize this healthy struggle and the deep learning associated with it.
The primary goal of this forum was to shed more light on these issues through short presentations and open discussions, of which more will be needed in the future to achieve the desired culture of learning in our institutions of higher learning.
Ken Kiger, University of Maryland, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Program
Ron Averill, Michigan State University, Mechanical Engineering Department Associate Chair for Undergraduate Program
Vincent Nguyen, University of Maryland, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Jeffrey Hermann, University of Maryland, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Ronald C. Averill, Sara Roccabianca and Geoffrey Recktenwald, “A Multi-Instructor Study of Assessment Techniques in Engineering Mechanics Courses,” ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Tampa, Florida, June 16-19, 2019
Published June 4, 2019