Teaching Structures in an (Almost) Empty Room: An Assessment of Strategies for Student Engagement in Mixed-mode and Remote Classes

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Newly imposed educational delivery modalities such as mixed-mode or fully remote instruction due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in creative, innovative instructional approaches to undergraduate engineering education. However, given the unique circumstances caused by the pandemic and the constraints it placed on students, some instructional techniques have been more successful than others. It is crucial for future efforts in remote and hybrid teaching environments to use this opportunity to document the realized benefits, unforeseen negative consequences, and student perceptions of various teaching strategies. This paper traces lessons learned through mixed-mode and remote instruction of structural engineering courses for three different courses and student populations: (1) introduction to steel design and (2) indeterminate analysis for structural engineering concentrators, and (3) steel and concrete design for engineering concentrators in other sub-disciplines. Across these courses, initial teaching strategies included a mixture of flipped classroom, traditional lectures, and interactive group problem solving. Collectively, the instructors determined through ongoing formal and informal student surveys, as well as additional unstructured feedback, that proposed teaching strategies required adjustments as the semester progressed. Some technological limitations were discovered after rigorous testing with live students, while successful technological strategies included digital problem sessions with document cameras, and chat-based questions with discussions. Furthermore, depending on course size and student population, students tended to engage more readily compared to verbal questions directed to the instructor during remote live classes. This engagement varied among written e-mails and chats, discussion boards, and Teaching Assistant (TA) office hours. To build on initial findings from individual course feedback, all three classes were evaluated using a common mid-term and end-of-term survey soliciting student reactions to content delivery, technology aides, and interactions with instructors/TAs. Overall, lessons learned through mixed-mode and remote instruction in structural engineering can inform future educators in this field, reducing time spent surveying available technologies and pointing towards strategies shown to be effective in this context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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