When Multimedia Doesn't Work: An Assessment of Visualization Modules for Learning Enhancement in Mechanics
Research publication no. 3
AIR FORCE ACADEMY COLORADO SPRINGS CO INST FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS
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Engineering mechanics education is currently undergoing a transformation from strictly lecture-based education to a format where a variety of innovative learning techniques are used. Techniques for enhancing student learning as well as concrete data establishing the effectiveness of these techniques are needed. This paper builds on previous work using innovative teaching tools by developing and assessing our current use of computer-based visualizations. This was done in our Fall 1999 Engineering Mechanics core course which is taken by all cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, regardless of their major. The visualization content consists of PowerPoint presentations designed to enhance understanding of specific abstract concepts. The presentations are finite element-based stress results displayed in color formats. The visualizations emphasize aspects of stress analysis which our students have traditionally found difficult to grasp. Evaluation of the enhancement in student learning brought about by use of these tools has been accomplished by a variety of assessment techniques. Our current work focuses solely on the computer-based visualization tools and vastly expands the assessment of these tools over what we had done previously. Results were counter to the initial hypothesis, but provided extremely valuable information with regard to enhancing the classroom environment for introductory mechanics. Assessment shows that overall the students actually disliked the use of these tools for very concrete reasons and improvement in overall learning and comprehension was statistically insignificant. These results will certainly shape the way our introductory mechanics instruction is conducted and carry significant value when trying to determine methods to enhance the classroom environment.
- Computer Programming and Software