(293e) Using Science Comics to Improve Undergraduate Chemical Engineering Education

Landherr, L. J., Northeastern University
In order to meet the demands of a growing student population, with an increasing number of sections and instructors for every core chemical engineering course, new curricula tools have been developed to help supplement current instruction and provide a stronger and more consistent educational experience for all undergraduates at Northeastern University. Of particular concern has been the need to improve student understanding of more complex, theoretical course concepts that do not have an obvious real-world application or are not traditionally represented in visual form.

Science comics have been developed by integrating written lectures and instruction with visual depictions to provide new curricula to help students better grasp more abstract and complex topics. Specifically, comics have been implemented in Unit Operations Laboratory, Thermodynamics, Transport, and Process Control courses to help explain concepts of data analysis, fugacity, heat exchangers, and PID controllers. The comics have provided students with â??visual notesâ?? that allow them to revisit the lectures where the concepts were originally taught; instead of relying on the plain text in their notes, the comics depict a lecture or a discussion between professor and students to represent the original instruction and contribute to a greater student understanding.

In the first two semesters of implementing the comics in chemical engineering courses, students have shown moderate improvement on exams and technical papers addressing the specific concepts addressed by the comics. Further, students have indicated significant improvement in their confidence in addressing the topics. Over 20 other universities and institutions have now also implemented the comics in their courses to varying degrees of success. Based on the student interest and response, further comics are being developed with Northeasternâ??s College of Art, Media and Design as Capstone projects as well as in collaboration with other colleges. This presentation will discuss current efforts in the research and further assessment.