[EAS]Technology & Learning

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sun Mar 10 02:29:01 EST 2002

Mail*Link¨ SMTP               Technology & Learning

Dear Colleagues -

The topic is hardly new to this list, but this mailing from Rick
Reis is suggestive in being specific to engineering education.

I have some comments at the end.

   --Peter Kindlmann

"Many of the much greater number of less prestigious universities 
will try to keep doing business as usual, but having to compete for a 
shrinking pool of undergraduates will force them to either change 
their practices or close their doors."


		"desk-top faculty development, one hundred times a year"

		   Note: Previous Listserv postings can be found at:


The posting below looks at some of the opportunities provided by 
technology in teaching and learning.  The two scenarios that are 
presented are from chemical engineering, yet the more general 
argument which follows clearly applies to teaching and learning in a 
number of disciplines. The article is by
Richard M. Felder and Rebecca Brent of North Carolina State 
University and is reprinted with permission.  Further information can 
be found at: http://www2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/

Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
UP NEXT: Slow Knowing

			Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

	         ---------------------------- 1,152 words 


Richard M. Felder and Rebecca Brent
North Carolina State University

In almost every teaching workshop we give, someone asks if the rise 
of instructional technology and distance learning signals the end of 
higher education as we know it.  As it happens, we believe it does, 
but we regard this as good news, not bad.  Consider the following two 

Scenario 1

Sharon boots up her computer, connects to her heat and mass transfer 
course web site, checks out the assignment schedule, sighs heavily, 
and gets to work.  In the next hour and a quarter, she:

- quickly reviews last week's multimedia tutorial that presents 
material on convective heat transfer, asks questions and poses 
problems, and provides feedback on her responses and corrections if 
she misses;

- watches a video of her instructor lecturing on the same topic, 
advancing rapidly to his discussion of a particular homework problem 
that gave her a lot of trouble;

- begins working through this week's tutorial, which deals with a 
shell-and-tube heat exchanger preheating the feed stream to a 
distillation column, and clicks on a hot link in the process 
description that takes her to supplementary material on heat 
exchangers, including a cutaway schematic, photos of commercial 
exchangers and tube bundle assemblies, and outlines of exchanger 
operating principles and design procedures;

- returns to the tutorial and builds the steady-state energy balance 
and heat transfer equations, branching to a linked database to 
retrieve needed physical properties of the process fluids;

- uses linked numerical analysis software to solve the equations, 
size the exchanger, and generate plots of shell-side and tube-side 
temperatures vs. axial position along the tubes;

- brings up a heat exchanger simulation and first predicts and then 
explores the effects of  system parameter changes on exchanger 

- closes the tutorial, checks her e-mail and finds a message from her 
instructor clearing up a point of confusion she had e-mailed him 
about late the previous night, sends a message to the other members 
of her class project group reminding them of their scheduled chat 
room conference at 7:30 that night, and logs off.

Scenario 2

Fred goes to his 8 a.m. heat and mass transfer class, drops his 
homework on the front desk, takes his seat, yawns, and wonders if 
he'll be able to stay awake until 9:15.  Professor Maxwell greets the 
class and asks the students if they have any questions.  One of them 
asks about a homework problem and she goes through the solution on 
the board.  She then draws a block diagram of a heat exchanger and 
writes the energy balance and heat transfer equations. When she 
finishes writing the last equation she asks the class how they would 
determine the film coefficients in the expression for the overall 
heat transfer coefficient. Fred vaguely recalls something about 
correlations from the last lecture but doesn't feel inclined to say 
anything. When no one volunteers a response the professor reminds the 
class about the correlations and writes the equation for one of them 
on the board, and then completes the calculations.  She asks again if 
any of the students have questions, and they don't.  She then notes 
that different correlations must be used for laminar flow, and she 
writes an expression for one of them.  While she is writing Fred 
glances at his watch, sees that it is 9:13, and closes his notebook. 
The instant she finishes he wakes his neighbor and heads for the door 
with the rest of the class.

These scenarios raise a question currently being pondered throughout 
the academic world.  If Sharon and Fred are roughly equivalent in 
intelligence and knowledge of the course prerequisites, which of them 
will learn more-the one taught in the live classroom or the one 
taught with technology?  There's no way to know for sure, of 
course-how much a student learns in a course depends on many 
things-but technology is the way to bet in this example.  The rich 
mixture of visual and verbal information, self-tests of knowledge and 
conceptual understanding, practice in problem-solving methods, and 
immediate individual feedback provided by the technology in Scenario 
1 are far more likely to promote deep learning than the passive 
environment of the traditional lecture class...and the fact that 
Sharon lives 750 miles away from her instructor's campus and has 
never seen him in person doesn't change the likelihood that she will 
learn more and at a deeper level than Fred.
This speculation is not baseless: studies comparing technology-based 
and traditional course offerings are beginning to appear with 
regularity, and technology is looking better all the time. 
Universities that specialize in distance education are learning how 
to use multimedia courseware and the Internet effectively and the 
quality of their offerings is gaining increasing recognition.   When 
students in the near future have a choice between (a) attending 
passive lectures at fixed locations and times in a campus-based 
curriculum and (b) completing interactive multimedia tutorials at any 
convenient place and time in a distance-based curriculum, guess which 
alternative more of them will begin to choose.

This is not to say that technology is a panacea.  Passive 
instructional technology-e.g., simply pointing a video camera at a 
conventional lecture or using the Web only to display text and 
pictures-does not promote much learning, no matter how dynamic the 
lecturer or how colorful the graphic images.  Moreover, even at its 
best technology will never be able to do some things that first-rate 
teachers do routinely, such as advising, encouraging, motivating, and 
serving as role models for students, helping them develop the 
communication and interpersonal skills they will need to succeed in 
their careers, and getting them to teach and learn from one another. 
Most successful people can think back to at least one gifted teacher 
who changed their lives by doing one or more of these things; it is 
unlikely that anyone will ever be able to do the same for a software 

Here, then, is what our crystal ball says about the future of higher 
education. An increasing share of undergraduate degrees will be 
earned in well-designed distance-based programs at conventional 
universities and institutions without walls like the British Open 
University,2 and an increasing number of people will bypass college 
altogether and seek competency-based certification in fields like 
information technology.  Some highly ranked research universities 
will still teach traditionally and continue to attract undergraduates 
by virtue of their prestige, serving primarily as training grounds 
for graduate schools.  Many of the much greater number of less 
prestigious universities will try to keep doing business as usual, 
but having to compete for a shrinking pool of undergraduates will 
force them to either change their practices or close their doors. And 
a growing number of universities will systematically incorporate 
interactive multimedia-based instructional software in their live 
classroom-based courses, making sure that the courses are taught by 
professors who serve as true mentors to their students and not just 
transmitters of information.  These universities will continue to 
thrive-and they will provide the best college education.


TOMORROW'S PROFESSOR LISTSERV is a shared mission partnership with the
American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) http://www.aahe.org/
The National Teaching and Learning Forum (NT&LF) http://www.ntlf.com/

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Hello again -

A few things came to mind as I read this, some of them rather

- The quality and compass of the online material described far
exceed what is usually available. Preparing it takes great effort,
one which textbook publishers are only just beginning to motivate as
they migrate toward becoming electronic publishers.

- The technologically enabled situation above is juxtaposed to
rather inferior teaching, far from the best one can do in person in
a classroom. In fact it suggested the classroom scene near the
beginning of the movie "Ferris Buehler's Day Off." There was no
_interactive interpretation_ of the design choices, as only a deeply
and directly experienced teacher can do -- in person. 

- More troubling to me are questions about the intellectual content
of engineering courses. There are core engineering principles which
must not be rushed past just because we see the educational road
getting ever longer as the frontiers of engineering advance. We want
to prep our students with the latest hot topics for a fickle job
markets. Teaching students to distinguish education from training is
itself a teaching responsibility. Students rarely come to us knowing
that distinction.

- Just making Web page equivalents of paper is, and always was,
training suitable for high-school. Seeking to understand how the
Web medium offers a better way of explaining and learning is the
challenge. It is clear by now that Matlab and Mathematica have
transformed the role of mathematical tools in engineering courses.
Making Web course material with such tools embedded, combined with
interactive conceptual explorations, offers powerful opportunities.
But it is a huge amount of work. It will only happen by committed
partnerships with technology experts, and by granting faculty
teaching leaves in aid of course development.

- The interactiveness of Web environments offers the opportunity of
online assessment of what is being learned and how learning could be
improved. Feedback about learning in most regular lecture courses
usually ranges from inadequate to abysmal. Course critiques at the
end of the semester are at best a help in improvements from one
semester to the next. Online feedback _during_ the semester is much
to be encouraged, but it will take cultural changes in students'
perceptions about courses and the role of instructors to make

- Teaching with technology in the humanities is a lot less confusing
than doing it in engineering. For the humanist technological tools
either work or they don't. Vide the success of Jim O'Donnell
<http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/teachdemo/teachdemo.html> in his
classics courses. 
The engineer is enmeshed in the ambiguities in using technology to
teach about technology. On one level that is trivial, e.g. the many
early online courses about the Internet itself. I.e. technology
talking about itself, like Noel Coward's favorite subject - himself.
Teaching engineering with technology makes it hard to not confuse
the medium with the message. 

It is clear that teaching methods will have to evolve toward more
technology, deftly used. We are competing for student customers for
a by now hugely expensive college education that can therefore never
again be completely detached from attempts at glitzy attractiveness
and providing short-term training for the job market. But deeper
educational meanings and values are critical to our survival as
educational institutions, and to the ability of our students to
reach the social and technical goals for which we claim to educate
them.  --PJK

|  Peter J. Kindlmann     |  Prof.(Adjunct), Director of Undergrad.  |
|  Dept. of Elect. Engrg. |  Studies and the Morse Teaching Center   |
|  Yale University        |  tel.(203)432-4294, fax (203)458-3803    |
|  New Haven, CT 06520    |  email: pjk at design.eng.yale.edu          |
|        http://www.eng.yale.edu/EE-Labs/morse/about/pjk.html        |

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