(676f) Facilitating Learning in Thermodynamics and Computations Using Technology | AIChE

(676f) Facilitating Learning in Thermodynamics and Computations Using Technology


Lira, C. T. - Presenter, Michigan State University
Elliott, J. R. Jr., The University of Akron

Enhanced technology is enabling greater individualized asynchronous delivery of information and learning. While uncertainties exist over the formal adoption of MOOCs for college credit, some of the tools can be integrated into traditional courses. Screencasts provide delivery of information, but by themselves do not provide an assessment of student skills. Over the past two years, screencasts have become available for many topics in thermodynamics, both from learncheme.com and chethermo.net. Such material provides opportunities for more personal interaction in the classroom, or group exercises.

For assessment of learning, individualized assessment is preferred. A disturbing trend in higher education is the proliferation of online homework solutions, which compromises the assessment of learning and the benefit of students working through the problems. Both physics and chemistry departments have been addressing scaling of delivery and assessment for almost a decade, making it logical to jump on their learning curve. Recently, some publishers and commercial ventures have been developing randomized homework for students, but primarily for the large service courses, such as chemistry, physics, and statics. It is unlikely that significant investment will occur for smaller programs such as chemical engineering. Michigan State has started to develop homework/quizzing materials on the open source lon-capa platform (http://www.lon-capa.org/) now available at 160 institutions world-wide. Unlike commercial packages, instructors can develop and share problems across institutions and change textbooks without loss of flexibility in use of the tools. Simple scripting in perl enables randomization, and running problems with a computer algebra system (maxima) is supported as well as real-time plotting using gnuplot. Any institution can adopt lon-capa by providing a server. Experience in use of lon-capa at MSU was extremely positive for multi-step problems as well as computer programming tutorials. MSU Students were requesting more lon-capa problems! Students liked: 1) the immediate feedback when a step was incorrect; 2) multiple trials to do self-correcting or consult with classmates (about the procedure since the values were individualized!); 3) the flexibility to move at their own pace; 4) use of technology to help them learn.