A study released on Monday by the Rochester Institute of Technology found using a technology-rich learning environment in many undergraduate engineering-technology courses improves learning, improves grades, and encouraged students to not withdraw from courses.
The study revealed more than 90% of students involved in the study said they learned more and retained information more readily as compared to traditional classroom lectures. The classroom technologies included tablet computers, multiple projection screens, and collaborative software.
The study spanned over six years and included more than 500 undergraduate students taught by three different professors in 12 different mechanical engineering classes. The classes were selected because they exhibited higher than average rates of student withdrawal and resulted in overall lower marks. Courses included pneumatics, applied dynamics, and applied fluid mechanics – foundation courses for engineering-technology degree problems. Pre-study student withdrawal rates were as high as 23% due to low or failing grades.
The study’s researchers redesigned the courses to include the use of a tablet computer for each student along with specialized collaborative software. Class notes and other details were features on multiscreen displays connected to student and faculty tablet computers.
Researchers concluded the combination of resources improved understanding through visual learning by enhancing the modelling of engineering problems and improving student-faculty interaction.
In a traditional laboratory setting, an instructor walks around to individual students working at their own workstations. In contrast, the studied environment allowed students to view multimedia lectures, visually assemble electrical circuits, and test pneumatic or hydraulic systems. Instructors were able to view results and assist students in real-time. Students were later given access to other students’ work to provide opportunities to view other approaches to solving problems.