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How to teach first-year engineering students to learn computing and programming effectively? How to teach first-year engineering students to learn computing and programming effectively? HOT

Structured Abstract 

CONTEXT  

The  computer  has  become  one  of  the  most  widely  used  tools  in  the  modern  world,  and  has  had  a profound  impact  on  how  engineering  and  science  are  practised  today.  Engineering  students  are required  to  familiarise  themselves  with  both  the  hardware  and  software  environments  in  a  modern computing  system,  and  how  to  apply  the  fundamentals  of  computing  to  solve  various  engineering problems.  At  Griffith  University,  a  computing  course  was  offered  to  more  than  350  first-year engineering  students  from  Civil,  Mechanical,  Electrical,  Mechatronics  and  Biomedical  Engineering since  2009.  For  the  last  5  years,  most  students  often  find  computing  and  programming  difficult because  they  have  limited  mathematical  and  physics  backgrounds  to  understand  the  situations presented to them. The most challenging task for students was to formulate engineering problems and then find an algorithm to solve them. On the other hand, the most challenging task for lecturer was to motivate the students to learn and to provide them with an effective learning environment. 

PURPOSE OR GOAL 

The goal of this work was to develop an effective teaching methodology to motivate and assist first-year students, from various engineering disciplines, to actively and successfully learn computing and programing. Systematic course evaluations were completed to know what works, what doesn’t work and the most importantly how to improve the course. Eventually, the course aims to help the students to apply the computing techniques to solve practical engineering problems and get themselves ready for the advanced courses and future career.  

APPROACH  

A  consistent  problem  solving  approach  was  and  is  applied  in  this  continuing  course.  Numerous engineering examples are embedded in the programming algorithm introduction. Weekly lectures and “hands-on”  computer  labs  were  designed  for  students  to  learn  and  practice.  A  problem solving assignment project was designed to cover all engineering fields. In order to engage students to learn the course more effectively, a flexible teaching assistance plan was also arranged based on students’ engineering background knowledge and computing experience.  

A  comprehensive  evaluation  was  carried  out  to  assess  the  effectiveness  of  the  students  learning. During the semester, formal and informal “Classroom Control” feedback was collected and responded. To  provide  the  broadest  picture  of  the  course  possible,  an  on-line  survey  was  completed  for  the course,  the  lecturer  and  all  tutors  at  the  end  of  the  course.  The  course  survey  data  was  analysed systematically for all aspects by using the statistic distribution method. Finally, students’ performance in  the  course  was  also  used  as  another  indicator  to  show  the  effectiveness  of  the  teaching  and learning.  

ACTUAL OR ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES  

While this project is still ongoing, preliminary analysis has shown the teaching methods are effective as  the  course  survey  score  has  been  improved into  the  top  band  for  student  satisfaction.  Student performance  is  also  improving  when  compared  to  previous  years.  Therefore,  the  problem solving method and flexible teaching assistance were effective for this course and the approaches employed should be applicable elsewhere. 

CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS/SUMMARY  

In the study, effective teaching methods including problem solving and flexible learning assistance are introduced for the teaching of computing and programming course to first-year engineering students. The examples from different engineering disciplines aided the students understanding of programming fundamentals  and  how  to  apply  them  to  real  world  engineering  applications.  The  flexible  teaching assistance provides students sufficient support in learning the challenging course. 

KEYWORDS  

Computing and programming, problem solving, first-year engineering, flexible teaching assistance 

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Created 2016-11-13
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