CBL in engineering: students’ use of a learning resource on phase diagrams


Part of the Engineering Materials course at the University of Southampton has been replaced by a computer package. A resource-based approach to system design has been implemented using Microcosm, an open architecture, Microsoft Windows based, hypermedia environment. Asymetrix Toolbook has been used in conjunction with Microcosm to produce a tutorial shell. Evaluation of the students’ response to the application has been carried out in collaboration with the Department of Psychology at Southampton. Aeronautical and Ship Science engineering students completed the Revised Approaches to Studying Inventory (RASI) which indicates the characteristics of the students’ learning approaches. Some of the students then had two traditional tutorial sessions replaced by tutorials during which they used the new application. The application was implemented as part of the students’ general education on phase diagrams. Responses from a Phase Diagrams Inventory, which included comments on both content and application usability, revealed that the students felt positively about using the package. These responses have been examined in relation to the students’ initial responses to the RASI. Overall, surprizingly little relationship was revealed between the RASI and the attitude inventory. Students’ performance in assessment tests later in the course revealed no adverse learning outcome from using the computer-based learning resource. The application has been further developed in response to results from this study, and is now replacing a laboratory class that previously covered the same topic for all first year engineers taking this course, approx. 300 students. This project has demonstrated that resource-based learning can provide an effective learning environment for studying engineering materials