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Computer Applications in Engineering Education

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Providing engineering undergraduate students opportunities to connect real-world applications with theory is key to preparing them for the workforce; however, this task often requires a balancing act between meeting course objectives in content-heavy core engineering undergraduate courses and providing experiences that connect real-world applications with theory. This study seeks to address this problem through the integration of online discussion prompts to promote a connection to real-world practical applications. The study included undergraduate students enrolled in three engineering core courses. The hypothesis was that participation in online discussions (using prompts) would lead to 1) an increase in student empowerment towards self-regulated learning and 2) enhanced student engagement and perception of participating in online discussions. Students participated in eight online discussions and were evaluated using pre-and post-assessments. Findings show students across disciplines liked online discussions because they allowed enough time to develop thoughts and promoted critical thinking through extending class topics, which increased the control of their own learning. In addition, students were more active in the course activities and offered useful feedback and reflection, which enhanced student engagement. Such feedback included ideas to improve the online discussion, for example, the need for clearer instructions and instructor feedback, better scheduling of due dates, and more engaging discussion prompts. In summary, integrating online discussions into core engineering courses, without sacrificing class content, can indeed have positive implications towards self-regulated learning and higher student engagement.


Accepted version. Computer Applications in Engineering Education, Vol. 28, No. 3 (May 2020): 675-691. DOI. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Used with permission.

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