(263a) Teaching Aspen Plus Via Student-Developed Video Modules

Authors: 
Burkey, D. D., University of Connecticut
Pascal, J., University of Connecticut
Teaching process simulation tools such as ASPEN Plus can be a challenge in some departments. If there are not faculty that regularly use the software as part of their research, then the learning curve for the novice faculty can be steep. Additionally, process simulation software is often used in the senior or capstone design course, and teaching it concurrently often does not allow students enough time to develop proficiency with many of the features and capabilities the software has. Spreading the instruction out over multiple classes so students develop proficiency over time is an appealing idea, but this then requires faculty in multiple courses to develop expertise in the software and/or give up time in their class for process simulation instruction.

To address some of these challenges, we have designed a senior-level elective course with the goal of having students develop ASPEN-focused educational training videos and other educational materials for deployment in a modular form throughout the chemical engineering curriculum. In our pilot test of this class, students who had successfully completed the department’s Unit Operations and Process Simulations class and showed superior proficiency with ASPEN were recruited to participate. Students in the class were required to develop at least two instructional videos between five and 10 minutes in length that covered specific topics in ASPEN. As part of the elective course, students were introduced to topics in engineering education and assessment. Students were encouraged to select topics from the chemical engineering curriculum that corresponded to topics they had seen in their previous coursework and were of personal interest to them. Working with the faculty, the students developed a clear set of learning objectives for their modules, and then developed the content of the videos with those learning objectives in mind. Students developed a “shot list” and script for their videos, and created a draft video that was then critiqued by the faculty and their peers. Students then created a final version of their video incorporating this feedback. In addition to the video, students were encouraged to develop in-line questions or concept quizzes that can be embedded in the videos to check student comprehension and promote active engagement with the video. Lastly, students were required to develop a problem set with solutions that were reflective of the learning objectives that they outlined at the beginning of their video.

The end result is a series of modules with clearly stated learning objectives and solved problem sets that faculty in multiple courses can “drop-in” to their classes without sacrificing significant in-class time to software instruction or developing significant expertise in the software itself. Over time, this creates a library of modules for use in various courses throughout the curriculum, allowing students to engage with process simulation earlier, and providing an always-available resource for them to return to in the future. This also allows new videos to be made over time as topics change or the software gets updated. The elective class itself encourages students to develop their lifelong learning skills and professional presentation skills, as well as engage in significant amounts of peer learning.