(133a) Applying New Technologies to the Classroom – What Have We Learned from Past Experience | AIChE

(133a) Applying New Technologies to the Classroom – What Have We Learned from Past Experience


Shacham, M. - Presenter, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Application of new technologies in the classroom in the modern era has probably started with the introduction of the concept of Computer-Based Instruction in the nineteen seventies (see, for example, Shacham and Cutlip, 1981), where interactive computer terminals with touch sensitive screens were used to enhance the learning process. Since those early days considerable amount of experience has been accumulated in successful and less successful applications of new technologies in the classroom. Felder and Brent (2005) document, for example, the failure of a promising technology in a publication entitled "Death by PowerPoint".

Incorporating new technologies into a course may require tremendous amount of effort and the risk of failure to reach the desired goals always exists. Relying on past experience of successful application of instructional technology can help in minimizing the risk of failure.

The target audience and the subject matter of the course are major considerations in determining whether the use of instructional technology can be beneficial. In this presentation some examples of successful application of instructional technologies will be reviewed in order to show the promising directions.

1. Distance learning.

Distance learning is directed mainly toward a target audience of employed professionals. The use of distance education in Bachelor engineering studies has been very limited so far, however there are several successful distance learning based Masters' programs (Bourne et al. 2005). Distance learning has been also successfully utilized for delivering various courses to practicing engineers in programs called "Continuing Education" and "Lifelong Learning".

2. Web-based learning replaces classroom learning.

In courses that teach technical skills, such as the use of various computer based tools for problem solving, preparation of documentations and presentations, and even computer programming, there is considerable amount of evidence to show that in such courses classroom instruction can be successfully replaced by e-learning even in on-campus study environments.

3. Virtual laboratories

Combination of hands-on and simulated laboratory experiments has proven to be very beneficial over the years. The use of virtual (simulated) experiments can reduce considerable the cost of the laboratory course, increase the number of experiments included and enable carrying out experiments that otherwise would require working with dangerous materials and/or working in dangerous conditions.

4. Exercises in deriving equations and problem solving

There are many courses (mainly Math oriented) where active learning that involves problem solving by manipulation of equations and using numerical methods is essential. Considerable effort is being invested in the development of methods that can analyze the students' results and provide appropriate feedback in order to improve his/her understanding of the underlying principles.

5. Using the Audio-Visual capabilities of the computer in the classroom.

Instructors have often used physical experiments in the classroom in order to help explain a particularly difficult subject. To carry out a real life experiment can be time consuming and expensive. The computer enables presenting a movie of such experiments. Also, the computer can be used to help visualizing complex scenarios, (such as 3D visualization of complex flow fields using CFD software).

6. Recording lectures for a-synchronic delivery.

The use of new technologies (such as the Tablet-PC) enables obtaining a high quality recording of a lecture with minimal investment. This recording can be used later by students who could not attend the lecture, students who may want to review the material before the exam, and even for delivering the course completely on-line under circumstances of an instructor absence.

In the presentation a few of these successful applications will be demonstrated in some detail.


1. Bourne, J., Harris, D. and Mayadas, A.," Online Engineering Education: Learning Anywhere, Anytime", Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 94. No. 1, 2005, p. 131

2. Felder, R. M. and R. Brent, "Death by PowerPoint", Chemical Engineering Education, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2005, pp. 28-29.

3. Shacham, M., and Cutlip, M.B., ?Computer-based Instruction: Is There a Future in ChE Education?? Chemical Engineering Education,Vol. 15, No. 2, 1981, p. 78.


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