Monthly Archives: May 2016

Engaging learners on-line

Filming at Quarry Bank Mill

Filming at Quarry Bank Mill

The Everyday Engineering Examples page of this blog continue to be very popular.  More than 70 engineering schools in the USA have signed up to use this approach to teaching engineering science as part of the ENGAGE project.  The lesson plans on that page assist instructors to deliver traditional lectures that are engaging and effective.  Now, we have transferred the approach to online delivery in a MOOC that was designed to support undergraduate learning as well as to increase public engagement and understanding of engineering science.

The MOOC entitled ‘Energy: Thermodynamics in Everyday Life‘ was completed by more than 960 learners from about 35 countries who ranged in age from 13 to 78 years old with a correspondingly wide range of qualifications in terms of both subject and level.  I believe that this is the first MOOC to use Everyday Engineering Examples within a framework of the 5E lesson plans and it seems to have been effective because the completion rate was 50% higher than the average for FutureLearn MOOCs.

We also included some experiments for MOOC learners to do at home in their kitchen.  Disappointingly only a quarter of learners performed the experiments but surprisingly almost half of all learners(46%) reported that the experiments contributed to their understanding of the topics.  This might be because results and photos from the experiments were posted on a media wall by learners.  There was also a vibrant discussion throughout the five-week course with a comment posted every 8 minutes (or more than 6,500 comments in total).

More than half the undergraduates (53%) who followed the MOOC did not continue to attend the traditional lectures and roughly the same percentage agreed or agreed strongly that the MOOC could replace the traditional lecture course with only 11% disagreeing.  So maybe the answer to my question about death knell for lectures [see my post ‘Death Knell for the lecture?‘ on October 7th, 2015] is that I can hear the bell tolling.

I gave a Pecha Kucha 20×20 on these developments at an International Symposium on Inclusive Engineering Education in London last month, which is available as a short video.

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A startling result

cowIn UK universities this is the season of project report writing for senior undergraduate students and report reading for their professors.   This year one of my students has been monitoring his personal ecological footprint and looking at ways in which he could use technology-based solutions to reduce it and then make recommendations to help others achieve the same [see my postings ‘Are we all free riders‘ on April 6th, 2016  ‘New Year Resolution‘ on December 31st, 2014].  He found that his weekly contributions to greenhouse gases (GHG) due to energy consumption in his flat or apartment, transportation and consumption of meat were 12.73, 5.87 & 8.60 kg carbon dioxide equivalents per week.  The total of 27.2 kg carbon dioxide equivalents per week is relatively low compared to the UK average but then he does not own a car and is living on a small budget.  What startled me was the proportion of greenhouse gases generated as a result of eating meat!

He consumed about 1.2kg of meat each week in about equal proportions of beef (12.14 kgCO2e/kg), chicken (2.84 kgCO2e/kg) and pork (4.45 kgCO2e/kg).  The numbers in parentheses are the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of each of these commodities in the UK and they can be compared to green beens or wheat at 1.55 and  0.52 kgCO2e/kg) respectively.  So, you don’t need to become a vegetarian but you could follow the example of my student by dropping beef from your diet in order to  make a significant individual contribution to reducing GHG emissions, or you could become a weekday vegetarian (see Graham Hill’s TED talk).

BTW – the diary cows, like the one in the picture, are lovely calm creatures and milk has a relatively small footprint at 1.19 kgCO2e/kg

Sources:

How low can we go? An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK food system end and the scope to reduce them by 2050. WWF November 2009.