(129a) The Production of Science Comics to Improve Education for Visual Learners

Landherr, L. J., Northeastern University

The chemical engineering undergraduate student population at Northeastern University has dramatically increased over the last few years, with class sizes having more than doubled in three years.  This rapid growth has put a strain on effective education; even with half of each class working in co-op positions each semester, every core chemical engineering course as well as multiple sections of each course need to be offered each semester.  The resulting effect has been to require multiple instructors each semester, which not only leads to greater inconsistency between sections, but makes it even more difficult for students who need extra guidance to be able to succeed.  Visual learners who have difficulty mastering highly theoretical concepts are of particular concern.

A recent educational technique that we have begun to use to address the disparity while improving visual learner education is to develop science comics.  These comics address particular scientific and engineering topics and are incorporated into multiple engineering courses to improve student understanding and comprehension.  As combining text with images has been shown to improve retention of the reviewed written material,visual curricula presentations of concepts allow for better transfer of the gained knowledge towards solving problems.  Thus, developing better visual learning techniques improves concept communication and helps both visual and verbal learners become more engaged with the theoretical concepts.  We are currently working to utilize the science comics, drawn by professional artists as well as students in the Department of Art and Design, in courses such as Thermodynamics, Transport, Kinetics, and Process Control and to address complex topics such as fugacity.  This presentation will discuss some of our achievements and assessment to date.