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Online Course Design Informed by Students’ Epistemic Beliefs: A Case Study of a Thermodynamics Course

[+] Author Affiliations
Simin Hall, Catherine T. Amelink, Eugene Brown

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA

Samuel Conn

Kentucky State University, Frankfort, KY

Paper No. IMECE2010-37228, pp. 35-43; 9 pages
  • ASME 2010 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 6: Engineering Education and Professional Development
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 12–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4443-4
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


Online offerings of abstract engineering courses such as thermodynamics provide a medium to present course material using pedagogy that employs problem-based learning (PBL). This shift requires a student-centered approach to course design and delivery that addresses several key elements in the educational setting, including students’ self-efficacy as it relates to problem-solving and students’ epistemic beliefs as they relate to interacting with peers, instructors, and instruction. This paper reports results from a mixed-method study that collected data useful in design of an online course focused on teaching problem solving skills among students. The data were collected through qualitative and quantitative methods used to determine how students approach problem solving, the role of instructor in facilitating problem solving, and the role of peers and students’ use of technology as it relates to accomplishing course work related to problem solving. Results reveal that students are confident in their problem-solving skills but rely primarily on the instructor to show them how to solve problems. Analysis and discussion focus on how to change the manner in which the content of the course is designed and presented to improve students’ self-efficacy in problem solving and students’ epistemic beliefs through active engagement with materials and collaboration with peers and instructor.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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