The Effects of Transitioning an Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Course from Shorter and More Frequent Class Periods to Longer and Fewer In-Class Sessions
Class frequency and duration are fundamental parameters within engineering education across nearly all pedagogical methods. Optimizing these factors enables programs to achieve a higher level of learning in the classroom while providing for more efficient time management. The objective of this paper is to document the perceived effect on students and instructors when transitioning from a traditional 40 lesson course with 55 minutes duration, to one comprised of 30 lessons at 75 minutes in length. This analysis limits research to a mechanical engineering curriculum at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. Major assessment performance under the new structure was compared with historical results to provide objective qualitative comparison. Anonymous student feedback was also collected at the midpoint and end of each course. Survey questions centered on perceived information absorption and synthesis, impact on problem solving opportunities, and the effect of variation in classroom contact time. Changes in course syllabi to accommodate the 75 minute structure generally resulted in no net gain or loss of new material to the original curriculum, though outliers did occur and are discussed in more detail. Class size averaged 18 students over four different courses, ranging from Helicopter Aeronautics to Vehicle Dynamics. Course size averaged 34 students with a total of 135 students enrolled across all courses. The change in course structure demonstrates potential opportunity for both greater depth and application of learning in the classroom as well as increased schedule flexibility. Conversely, the heightened implications of students missing class and the administrative feasibility of such a shift can be problematic. Instructor assessment of student learning and student feedback through end-of-course evaluations will be presented in this paper, as well as recommendations for future instructors wishing to apply similar changes.
Conference presentations, papers, posters
Pedagogical Methods, Engineering Education
Miller, Matthew Louis; Rigney, Jeffrey Michael; Arnold, Daniel; and Flaherty, David, "The Effects of Transitioning an Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Course from Shorter and More Frequent Class Periods to Longer and Fewer In-Class Sessions" (2019).