Incorporating Experiential Learning in a Lower-Level Engineering Science Course

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Atousa Hajshirmohammadi, School of Engineering Science

Project team: Lila Torabi and Nilgoon Zarei, research assistants, and Amir Kasaian, co-op student

Timeframe: January 2012 to August 2013

Funding: $2,800

Description: The goal of this project is to incorporate experiential learning in a first-year engineering course in order to motivate and inspire junior-level students in their learning experience. The project is prompted in part by the author’s preliminary research on experiential and community-engagement learning, which suggests that approaches based on direct experience are less prevalent in engineering than in the arts and humanities or even the natural sciences, particularly in lower-level courses. The project will incorporate the use of simplified electronics and electrical devices in an introductory computer design course (ENSC 150) to facilitate students’ understanding of the theoretical aspects of the course through experience with real-world examples that provide an opportunity for reflection on, and analysis of, everyday experiences. Feedback forms and surveys will be used at different stages of the course to determine the usefulness of the experiential examples to the students, and indicators of success such as student performance on assignments and exams in the experiential version of the course relative to student performance in previous offerings of the course will be identified and measured. Revision of the examples and implementations will take place iteratively either during the course or for future offerings of the course.

Questions addressed:

  • What electronics and electrical devices can be identified for possible use in the class?
  • How can experiential learning be implemented to help students in their learning experience within the course (i.e., what course design can incorporate the key aspects of experiential learning: action, reflection, abstraction, and application)?
  • How do students evaluate the usefulness of each device in terms of their learning about specific concepts required in the course?
  • Is there any difference in students’ achievement levels (on graded assignments and exams) in comparison to students in previous courses without the experiential-learning component?
  • Based on feedback from students and TAs, what revisions should be made to subsequent course offerings?
  • To what extent can experiential learning be incorporated in lower-level engineering courses more generally? (The challenge here is to find a balance for dividing time and resources between the experiential-learning component and the theoretical syllabus as per the curriculum requirements.)

Knowledge sharing:

Hajshirmohammadi, A. (2017, Nov). Incorporating experiential learning in engineering courses. In IEEE Communications Magazine, 55(11), 166-169. doi: 10.1109/MCOM.2017.1700373

Hajshirmohammadi, A., & Campi, F. (2015, May). Support technical learning using short audio/video tutorials. Presentation at the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA/ACEG) 2015 Conference, Hamilton, ON.

Hajshirmohammadi, A., & Zarei, N. (2015). Incorporating experiential learning in lower division engineering courses. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association Conference (CEEA), Hamilton, ON.