(668a) Using Social Media in Chemical Engineering Courses

Zollars, R. L., Washington State University
Hundhausen, C., Washington State University

Students use social media for many reasons including discussions amongst others within groups in which they may participate.  This can be utilized to promote group interactions within the chemical engineering curriculum.   We have used an asynchronous, social networking-type software developed by Chris Hundhausen (OSBLE – On-line Studio Based Learning Environment) in two different applications in our chemical engineering program. 

The first application was in answer to the difficulties in assessing the ABET outcomes 3f3j (an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility, an ability to communicate effectively, the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context, a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, life-long learning, and a knowledge of contemporary issues).  A procedure (the Engineering Professional Skills Assessment – EPSA) had been developed at Washington State University in which students would discuss a current event and have that discussion recorded by personnel from the Center of Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT).  Transcripts of this discussion then were assessed for the level of ability in ABET 3f3j by faculty using an established rubric.  In 2010, however, budget reductions on the campus made it impossible for CTLT to continue to provide this service.  Since the EPSA had received awards from both ASEE and ABET as a direct measurement of the ABET 3f3j outcomes we desired to continue to use this process.  OSBLE has been used for the past three years to fill the role formerly played by CTLT.  Students now can participate in an on-line, asynchronous discussion about a current event just as they had in the past when personnel from CTLT recorded and transcribed the discussions.  Now, however, this discussion may last over a much longer time (usually 1 – 2 weeks) since the students do not have to actually meet face-to-face and no transcription is required since OSBLE records all of the communication between students.  Further details of how this has been implemented will be provided.

The second application is the use of a studio-based learning component in the material and energy balance class at Washington State University.  In this class students are required to submit certain homework problems in an electronic format.  The entire class then is divided into small groups (3 – 4 students) which then are assigned to review another student’s problem solution.  OSBLE again is used to facilitate this discussion.  The asynchronous nature of OSBLE allows students to participate in this discussion on their own schedule, thus freeing the approach from the time constraints of a typical class schedule.  OSBLE also anonymizes all of the student-to-student communication so that students do not know who submitted the original solution nor do they know which other students are in their discussion group.  After a period of about 1 week the students are asked to come to a consensus as to the advice they (as a group) would give to the student who submitted the original solution on ways to improve that solution.  This necessity to go beyond merely applying principles from the material and energy balance class to having to evaluate other’s work thus promotes higher level learning skills (the “evaluation” level in Bloom’s Taxonomy) than can typically be reached in this type of class. 

The use of OSBLE has not only allowed us to use something students use all of the time (asynchronous, social networking) to provide a richer learning environment for students but also provides the opportunity to collect the student’s communications to assess their level of understanding.