A Web-based and group learning environment for introductory environmental engineering

A Web-based and group learning environment for introductory environmental engineering

Masten, Susan J


The use of computer-based technology is becoming more prevalent in the classroom. As a part of an educational research project sponsored by the GE Foundation, strategies for augmenting a course, Introduction to Environmental Engineering (CE 280), were investigated including cross-disciplinary experiences in teamwork, design, and the use of advanced teaching technologies such as the web. Interactive tools to assist student learning were developed and refined. Efforts have focused on developing an extensive website, web-based quizzes and homework assignments, and tutorials. Base groups were used to provide both intellectual and emotional support to students. This paper summarizes the development of this course and the impact of rapid feedback on the progression of student understanding.


Introduction to Environmental Engineering (CE 280) is a sophomore-level engineering course. This course surveys the various aspects of environmental engineering including, surface and groundwater hydrology, water quality, water and wastewater treatment, hazardous wastes and risk assessment and air pollution. CE 280 is both a general breadth requirement for many engineering majors and a required course for civil engineering, engineering arts and chemical engineering students. It is a suggested technical elective for computer science and engineering, mechanical, biosystems and electrical engineering students. Enrollment for the course is primarily at the junior- and senior-level, with approximately 120-150 students enrolling each semester. Typically, 25 percent of the class are engineering arts majors; 27.9 percent are civil engineering; 7.9 percent are chemical engineering, 16 percent are from other disciplines within the College of Engineering, and 23.2 percent are other majors across the university (data from Spring Semesters 1994 through 2001). In spring semester 1999, 3.4 percent of enrollment was first year students, 17.1 percent was at sophomore– level, 48 percent was at junior-level, and 31.5 percent was at the senior-level. Thus, faculty who teach CE 280 must combine both the general expectations of various engineering and other departments across the university as well as the requirements for civil engineering majors. Approximately 4 to 5 percent of the students repeat the course. Most of these students claim to repeat the course because they did not apply themselves due to lack of interest in the material.


Core engineering science courses, such as CE 280, represent an initial exposure to engineering for many students and form the foundation for degree requirements for each undergraduate engineering major. As a part of a GE-sponsored educational research project, we investigated strategies for augmenting CE 280 with innovative instructional approaches, including cross-disciplinary experiences in teamwork, design and the use of advanced teaching technologies involving the Worldwide Web. Instruction in CE 280 is being evaluated on several aspects including the following.

1. Improving the quality of the undergraduate student experience by:

* meeting the educational needs of the students by addressing different learning styles;

* fostering community building; and

* incorporating cross-disciplinary material into the curriculum, allowing students to see the relevance of required coursework.

2. Encouraging faculty use of innovative instructional techniques to succeed in meeting the learning objectives. These include:

* delivery of course materials through the internet; development of web-based tutorials to aid in the learning process; and

* development of computer-based material to help students learn the required subject matter and to better track student learning.

3. Systemic change by institutionalizing these forms in the curricula.

The learning objectives were detailed in accordance with requirements of ABET EC 2000. These included an understanding of mass balance equations as applied to surface water hydrology, chemical contamination in lakes and rivers and indoor air pollution, and a basic understanding of the aspects of environmental engineering mentioned above. In the versions of this course offered in Spring 1999 and 2000, the ability to use spreadsheet computer packages, such as MS Excel, to solve complex equations and graph solutions was also included. The use of MS Excel is first taught in Introduction to Technical Computing and Problem Solving (CSE 131) [1] and the problems to be solved were extensions of what was taught in this class. In Spring 2000, Excel-based problems were not used because of the time it took students to complete web-based homework assignments.


In the past, the students complained about heavy weighting of the examinations. To counter that and to foster continued learning rather than last minute cramming for examinations, the grading structure was significantly modified over the last three years. The grading scale is shown in Table 1. Early in the development of this course, grades were based on in-class examinations and, to a very small extent, homework assignments. Co-operative learning assignments, in-class quizzes, web-based quizzes, base group assignments have been introduced over the last three years.

In-class co-operative learning exercises have been generally short in length, with the goals of having students being able to either investigate a new topical area or set-up a quantitative exercise. Inclass quizzes served the purpose of self- and instructor-assessment of student learning. The base group assignments were more complex, requiring out-of-class student interaction and research. The web-based quizzes were multiple choice questions, covering qualitative material, focussed predominantly on definitions, terminology, and basic conceptual understanding. Questions asked were more detail-oriented than those asked on examinations. This was done to foster a deeper understanding of course material. Unlike the web-based homework assignments, students were allowed only one attempt per problem and once they submitted their answers they could not go back and change them. Solutions were not available until after the due date. Prior to Spring 2001, homework assignments were traditional in nature and quantitative. However, in 2001, homework assignments were computerized using the Computer Assisted Personalized Approach (CAPA) software developed at Michigan State University (MSU) [2]. Based on earlier experiences with web-based quizzes (which were assigned almost randomly in time), assignments were individualized and due on a regular basis: every Friday evening at 11:30 p.m., except on those weeks when there was an examination. The CAPA homework assignments reviewed material covered that week (lectures were on Monday and Wednesday). The late time avoided excuses that the server was too slow (common in 1999 with web-based quizzes). Also, since it was assumed that most students did not want to spend their Friday nights doing homework, the due day/time encouraged early completion. Those who did not complete the assignment by early evening still had several hours to complete it. In all versions of CE 280, the in-class examinations covered both the qualitative and quantitative material mentioned earlier. In 2001, like the homework assignments, all examinations were individualized. After completing the CAPA examination, the student was given a CAPA-correction examination. The correction-examination followed the same format as the in-class examination except that the multiple choice problems had a different selection of choices and the quantitative problems had different numbers. The students were required to complete the entire correction-examination. Their final grades were calculated using the formula:

Final grade = In-class Grade + 0.30(Correction exam score – in-class exam score)

The final examination covered all the topics taught in the semester.

B. Course website

Since beginning this project in 1999, we have seen major changes in web technology, accessibility to the Internet, level of student comfort with Internet technology and reliance on email. In these three years, the number of students complaining about the slowness of the server has decreased, the number of students with Internet access either at home or in their dorm rooms has increased, and the number of email messages has skyrocketed. In 1999, classroom time was required to show students how to access the PowerPoint slides; this past year few students needed any instruction. Clearly, the Web has already begun to change the relationship between students and teachers in ways more profound than we can yet imagine. We have seen the Web change student expectations about convenience and accessibility of information. No longer are students happy with the stocking of material in traditional libraries. They expect it to be at their fingertips at any time, day or night. Many feel as this student: “Usually [working on course material] is a late night affair for me and when I am working on it I want to get it done.” While lectures can be very effective, they neither accommodate variations in learning styles nor flexible schedules [3]. Just browsing through the web is an educational experience in itself. It often leads to “accidental learning,” that is, learning that happens at an unexpected moment about an unexpected subject [4]. Thus, our initial efforts focussed on developing an extensive website for the course. The URL for the website is http://www.egr.msu.edu/ classes/CE 280. The website serves as a repository of course information and material. Using the website, at any time of the day or night, students have access to course description, syllabus, reading assignments, study guides, past examinations, homework assignments, and practice problems, along with general information such as announcements, location and the time of office hours and help sessions and the grading criteria. The location of this material on the website also allowed students to either access the desired information from their homes or their residence halls, thus, avoiding the need to either visit the engineering library or travel long distances. In addition, a virtual library was created where links to relevant information and resources are given.

The website was created using HTML and the scripting language, JavaScript. The website can be viewed using any standard browser, such as either Netscape 3.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0. Frames were used to make the website user-friendly and to provide a uniform look to the website. This allows the students to return to the index page without having to experience the frustration of getting lost in the website. A snapshot of the interface is shown in Figure 1. In addition, the aforementioned information was provided in appropriate sections and every effort was made to keep the interface of section indexes similar in nature. For this, “pick lists” were provided to enable the students to jump to the desired location without having to waste time locating their desired page. A snap shot of such a “pick list” built using HTML is shown in Figure 2. After creating the interface for the website, students enrolled in CE 280 during the fall semester 1998 were asked to visit the website and their suggestions were further incorporated to improve the user-friendliness of the site.

Notes for each lecture were prepared in PowerPoint and then posted on the web. In Spring 1999, lectures were posted as both as HTML documents and as PowerPoint presentations. We chose PowerPoint as the tool for preparing the lecture presentations because of the ease of using it in preparing the original presentation and converting it into HTML. PowerPoint provides a wizard for converting presentations into HTML form which eliminates the need of the instructor having to know HTML. We did not continue posting slides in both formats because of the difficulty in maintaining two up-to-date sets of slides since changes and corrections in the slides were made during the semester. Since most students preferred to use PowerPoint for printing slides, the conversion of slides from PowerPoint did not offer significant advantage.

The first year CE 280 was taught in this format, photo-slides were prepared for use in the class during actual lecture. These lecture notes were not just the transformation of information from the traditional media into electronic form; instead, the use of technology in the form of images and pictorials obtained from various public sites (such as http://www.epa.gov) on the Internet allowed us to focus more on case studies. In addition, more time could be devoted to provide background information and in-class co-operative learning exercises. This resulted in better utilization of the class time than traditional lectures because the classes were more interesting for the students with emphasis on visual learning. This also allowed more time for the instructor to explain topics that he/she would normally relegate to office hours. This model of teaching has been known to enhance student performance [3]. However, it was found that when using slides, students perceived that few example problems were actually solved although solutions were presented in slides. In the second year (2000), the same PowerPoint slides were used, except that the solutions were removed from the slide presentations and a data projector was used to present the material using PowerPoint. Problems were solved in “real time” on an overhead projector. In year three (2001), essentially the same approach was used except that all the materials were presented on overheads and problems continued to be solved in real time. Overheads were used because of the layout of the room and problems associated with the microphone system. For the first time, some students brought laptop computers and viewed the slides on-line while taking notes on the note pages of the PowerPoint presentations.

In addition, an attendance tracking application was developed using Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programming to keep a log of the student visits. User specific information such as username, day and time of visit, and technical information such as the browser name were collected and written in a file. At the end of the 1998 semester, this information was transferred into a database. In spring 1999 semester, approximately 8500 unique hits were recorded. The distribution of these hits over a period of one day is shown in Figure 3. Not surprisingly, maximum hits were recorded just before the beginning of the class time (4:10 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays) when the students downloaded and printed the lecture notes. However, the uniform distribution is an encouraging sign. Using the data collected, it was found that the average time spent by a student on the CE 280 website was 28 minutes. Whether this time was spent either downloading assignments or on-line could not determined, although the time record and student comments suggest that most of the time was spent printing slides.

C. Interactive Tools

It is our hypothesis that due to the rapid changes in communication and computing technologies, students are much more demanding of instant feedback. As such, we have attempted to develop interactive tutorials to assist student learning. These tools were developed using the programming languages JavaScript and Java. We developed interactive multiple-choice questions to aid in the students’ conceptual understanding of the material. A typical question and its answers are shown in Figure 4. If a student chose the wrong answer, he/she was immediately prompted about the possible flaw in his/her approach. In addition, some problems were solved and students were guided through the various steps with different levels of help available at each level. If the students did not follow the steps they could click on the “Help” link and hints were provided. Java applets were used to develop interactive calculators such as the Dissolved Oxygen Sag Curve plotter. The purpose of these applets was to give the students the resources needed to master certain important concepts and the effect of various parameters on the nature of the solution (presented as a curve). We believe that such applets, which are easy to use, greatly reduce the problems associated with the students having to do such study in isolation–since they are given immediate feedback and can spent time exploring the physical meaning of mathematical expressions.

In keeping with our goal of using technology to aid learning, in 1999 we introduced multiple-choice, web-based quizzes. These quizzes were designed to test the students understanding of qualitative material. Dr. Jon Sticklen, the course coordinator for CSE131 Introduction to Technical Computing and Problem Solving at MSU, has developed the software used for these web-based quizzes.1 The software was developed using Lotus Notes and allowed the user to create a question bank. The user can use any word processor to type the questions and does not need to know HTML. The HTML code is generated automatically, thereby considerably reducing the time and work required in such an effort. Typically these quizzes were opened (or unlocked) for a period of five days, during which time the students could log into their account (as many times as they desired until the answers were submitted), print the quiz, and conduct research to determine the correct answers. Once the answers were submitted, they could no longer view that particular quiz, as it was locked automatically. Quizzes were scored after the due date. Students could track their performance on-line. Feedback was given on-line (after the due date) as students could view which of their answers were either correct or incorrect, along with the correct answer. Feedback was also given (both before and after the due date) either through personal conduct before/after class, during office hours, or via email. Because of negative feedback from students, the web-based quizzes were not continued in 2000. Students did not perceive that these quizzes aided their learning (49 percent stated that the web-based quizzes occasionally or never “aided their learning of course material”) and since the due dates were almost random in time, they often had trouble remembering due dates.

In 2001, the CAPA system was used in place of traditional homework. With traditional homework, it was not uncommon for the graders to take one to one-and-a-half weeks to grade and record scores for homework assignments. Problems of inconsistency in grading abounded. The use of CAPA allowed for immediate feedback since the student knew immediately after entering an answer if it was correct or not.

D. Co-Operative Learning

There are two reasons for using co-operative learning in engineering classes. First, research has shown that students learn better when working with each other than when working in isolation or competing against each other. Second, it encourages students to practice team and small group communication skills that are necessary in the real world [5]. As shown in Table 2, we employed two types of assignments: 1) in-class co-operative learning exercises, which were generally short in length and, 2) base group assignments, which were more complex. One in-class assignment was much longer in length, requiring out-of-class preparative reading and the entire class time (80 minutes). The students were assigned different roles representative of those in a community and were expected, with the instructor’s guidance, to agree to an acceptable solution for the remediation of a hazardous waste site. The base group assignments were more complex requiring student interaction and research, mostly using the Internet. The base group assignments were developed to foster community within the class since students come from a wide array of backgrounds and are often isolated in a large class. Students were assigned their base groups based upon the location of their residence in an attempt to foster communication and accessibility. These assignments required the evaluation of material from a specific topical area, such as drinking water treatment and use of material obtained from the Internet. Students were encouraged to send their responses through group e-mail messages.

Although base group assignments were eliminated in 2001, students were given the opportunity to form what could essentially be called base groups via both the official CAPA discussion page and the alternative CAPA site (www.allmsu.com). CAPA allows a professor to set up a web community by way of a discussion page. The students can post questions concerning a specific problem; other students can respond (either anonymously or openly). The instructor and teaching assistants can monitor the site. In CE 280, the students were allowed to post any response other than the exact answer. Surprisingly to us, students began using the discussion site within several hours after the first CAPA assignment was distributed to the class. During the semester the students formed their own web community; rarely did either the instructor or the teaching assistants need to respond to questions since students often replied to posted questions first. Occasionally, our assistance was required to help either clarify or correct an answer. Similarly, a web community formed on the alternative website (www.allmsu.com). However, the nature of the discussion varied greatly from that on the official site. Student responses on the alternative site could not be either modified or deleted by the instructor (as they could on the official site) and the instructor did not have access to student identities. Responses were often either “cut and pasted” solutions from CAPA or the exact method as how to solve a quantitative problem. Students using the alternative site appeared to rely much more on obtaining the exact solution to a problem rather than learning course material. Nevertheless, one could call both factions base groups, although, as an instructor, the first appears to be a functional group and the latter one dysfunctional.



Apart from encouraging the faculty to use innovative instructional techniques, it is also important to bring about a systemic change by institutionalizing these reforms in the curricula. Since CE 280 is a service course, it was deemed necessary to determine which faculty would be interested in participating in developing material that would help students see the relevance of environmental engineering to other fields of civil engineering. Accordingly, a survey of the Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty was conducted. The objective of this survey was to answer several questions concerning the history of CE 280. The results of this survey were very interesting as they revealed the significant differences in expectations of CEE faculty. There are faculty in the department that expect that the students to be provided with an overview of how engineering projects affect the environment. Others believe that the students need exposure to the impact of engineering on the environment, while still others expect very specific topics to be taught such as intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) relationships to obtain precipitation rates and coagulation/sedimentation processes in drinking water treatment. When asked what material do they depend upon in subsequent courses, the answers ranged from nothing (as my courses) are irrelevant) to highly relevant with specific material listed. These answers were independent of their response to the first question, i.e., faculty that stated that the course should be required also stated that what they teach is irrelevant to the material taught in CE 280. Of the 20 faculty surveyed, and the seven responses received, several faculty stated that they are willing to work on a bank of problems related to civil engineering projects. We are working in the coming semesters to develop these collaborations.

After implementation of these modifications in Spring Semester 1999, we carried out a survey of the students to obtain their views on several aspects of the course including the new mode of teaching and administration. The survey was distributed on the penultimate day of class and on the day of the final examination. It was designed to collect comprehensive data about the course including the demographics of the students, their majors, their cumulative GPAs, and their views on the various modified facets of the course such as the improved web-integration. While most questions had multiple choice responses, students were provided space to either justify their answers or offer additional comments where needed. Seventy two percent of the students completed the survey. The survey was also used in 2000 and 2001 with slight modifications due to changes in course administration. In 2000, the survey was administered immediately after Examination 3 and then one week later (to those who did not complete it the first time). In 2001, the survey was completed on the last day of class. Results of the survey pertaining to this study are shown in Tables 3, 4 and 5. The number of students that completed the surveys for 1999 and 2000 semesters were approximately equal (85 students in 1999; 83 in 2000: 17 completed it after Exam 3, 64 one week later). The number of students who completed the survey in 2001 was 107. Not all students answered every question.

Based upon a review of the student surveys, we found that the students appreciated the availability of course material on the web. Previously, the material was kept on reserve in the library and the students typically photocopied the material. From the 1999 surveys it was found that students attended the lectures mainly for two reasons: to augment web learning (35 percent of 57) and to get credit for the in-class co-operative learning (28 percent of 57). Others attended the class for such reasons as “easier to learn in class” (22 percent of 57). Attendance in class, compared to previous years, appeared to be reduced due to the availability of course material on the web. However, this is difficult to quantify since attendance was not recorded. From 1999 to 2001, it appears that students rely on the web-based material more. In 1999, 43 percent of the students replied “very often” to the question that the posting of lectures on the web was helpful. In 2000, this number increased to 65 percent. In 2001, 65 percent of the students replied “strongly agree” to this question. (Note that the change in answers is due to an attempt to conform to the standard Student Instructional Rating Form.)

Based upon our experiences during the 1999 semester, we found that students had much less experience searching the Internet to find technical information than we expected. A significant number of students did not have access to either e-mail or the Internet from home. Some student’s lack of familiarity with PowerPoint and mastery of Excel presented obstacles to printing lecture notes and completing and plotting spreadsheet calculations, respectively. Approximately 48 percent (of 59) students reported at least such obstacle. By 2001, students experienced fewer obstacles to using the web. Students no longer complained about the speed of either computers or extensive server downtime. Most students were familiar with printing PowerPoint slides and knew how to print six to a page to save their print quota. Students were so comfortable with the web that “on-line cheating” using alternative websites has become problematic. After our first attempt using the web (Spring 1999), we believed that it would be necessary to devote additional classroom time to the instruction of PowerPoint and Excel. However, this no loner has become necessary.

In all three semesters it was found that students did not use supplemental information such as tutorials unless the use of these materials was required. However, a significant number of students, as evident from Table 3, did find them useful when used (46 percent answered “often” or “very often” in 1999, 23 percent in 2000). As expected, in 1999, a majority of students completed the webbased quizzes, which were required, and did find them useful (47 percent). Interestingly, the distribution of student responses for the tutorials and web-based quizzes are very similar (Table 3). Both the tutorials and the web-based quizzes were qualitative in nature and differed only in the timing of the feedback provided to the students. While the tutorials instantaneously pointed a wrong answer, the quizzes gave feedback after they were graded. In the future modifications of the site, an attempt will be made to utilize more tags/links in either homework problems or quizzes to the tutorials. Hopefully, this will encourage their use, as they will be easier to find. It was also interesting that in the absence of the web-based quizzes (Spring 2000), the use of the tutorials decreased (59 percent vs. 45 percent answering “never or occasionally helpful”).

A majority of students completed the base group assignments; however, in 1999, few found them very productive (76.4 percent answered that the assignments “never or occasionally aided my learning of course material”). In 2000, as noted earlier, we assigned the students their respective base groups based on the results of a preliminary survey taking into account their majors and location of residence. This method does not seem to be an effective alternative to the traditional method of allowing students to choose their own partners (60 percent of 81 answered that the assignments “never or occasionally aided my learning of course material”). This can be concluded from their responses where most students thought that their group members did not respond enough and cited this as the main reason for the ineffectiveness of base group assignments to contribute to their learning.

Although in previous years, students complained about the heavy emphasis on examinations in calculating their grades, these students did not appear to prefer a system where they were required to complete weekly assignments. At least not when the assignments were in additional to regular paper assignments and randomly assigned in time (only 14 percent of the students in 1999 felt that the web-based quizzes “very often” aided their learning of course material). However, when the web-based homework assignments replaced traditional paper assignments and were assigned on regular weekly intervals (due every Friday at 11:30 p.m.), 35.5 percent of the students strongly agreed that these assignments (CAPA-based) aided their learning. This impression was supported by the distribution of grades. In Figure 5, the final grade data obtained for CE 280, Spring 1997, are given. In 1997, CE 280 was taught without the use of any web-based technology. Although the data deviate from a true-bell shaped curve, they are closer to a traditional bellshaped curve than the plot of data for 2001 (presented in Figure 6). Clearly, in 2001, the distribution of grades was shifted towards a 4.0. This is consistent with that of Kashy, et al [61 who found then when CAPA was used, there was a dear shift away from the traditional bell-shaped curve. In 2001, there was also a dear reduction in the number of 0.0 grades awarded.


Although our goals are often lofty, the cost of achieving those can be the limiting factor. Nonetheless, we believe that with advancement of technology in the near future, the requirements will be reduced. Another factor worth noting is that even in this model of teaching, materials prepared can, and will, accumulate just as in traditional teaching, and technology can then be used to transform them into the desired form.

Based on a conservative estimate, in Spring 1999, the instructor of the course contributed 35 hours/week, which typically included preparing web-based notes, teaching, holding office hours, and responding to e-mail messages. Two graduate students assisted, one for technical support and the other for academic support, and each contributed roughly 25 hours/week Technical support included design and development of the basic infrastructure for the website, coding in HTML, preparing various tutorials, designing databases, and the subsequent data acquisition for grades and grade-reports, website usage, and the detailed surveys carried out to appraise the performance. Academic support was needed to assist with grading and to supplement class learning later in the form of review sessions for various assignments and exams. In-class co-operative learning assignments created additional material for grading. Since typically two students worked on one in-class assignment, each assignment given in class created approximately 50 sheets for grading. More and more students are using e-mail as a means of communication to ask questions both academic and technical. Our technical support received 170 unique e-mail messages. The instructor received approximately 25 unique e-mail messages/week and the teaching assistant received approximately 15 unique e-mail messages/week. We also encouraged students to submit their base group assignments via e-mail to assist students in learning how to send files as electronic attachments. In the future, we plan to obtain a unique e-mail address for the course for the subsequent semesters. The disk space required for this entire website is 144 megabytes.

Similar amounts of time were required in 2001, although the distribution of tasks varied. Far less time was spent on preparation of lecture material. Approximately 25 to 30 hours were required for coding homework assignments and examinations. Another 5-6 hours per week were required for checking homework assignments and examinations prior to their release to the class. Approximately five hours per week were required for monitoring the class discussion site and another one to two hours per week for monitoring and responding to cheating on the alternative CAPA website. A large amount of time (about 2-4 hours a day) was required for “electronic office hours” (mainly responding to email questions) and another 2 hours a day of regular office hours. Hopefully, future use of CAPA will reduce the amount of time required since a large number of problems have been coded and coding errors have been eliminated from all of these problems.


In the coming semesters our plan is to try to continue refocusing this course from the traditional objective of exploring what an environmental engineer is/does to “how does the effect of engineering on the environment affect the way an engineer operates.” Units will be structured around case studies, developed from a variety of fields. For example, for the unit on water treatment a case study involving the treatment of specific industrial process water will be developed. Students will consider the goals and objectives of the treatment scheme along with options for treatment and an introduction to the design process. Additional CAPA problems and quizzes will be developed, continuing to reflect the qualitative and quantitative aspects of in-class examinations. Several CAPA homework assignments will be developed to incorporate the positive aspects of base group assignments and to develop learning groups within the class. Students will be assigned to multi-disciplinary teams. These teams will be assigned projects which will require a higher level of research, analysis, and synthesis of class material than what was accomplished this past year with CAPA assignments. In completing the base group assignments, students will be required to identify the problem, determine potential strategies for solving the problem, and determine a solution acceptable to all group members.

Based on experiences this past semester, we feel that the integrated model of instruction requires the students to play an active role in knowledge acquisition. The use of the Internet provides the instructor the opportunity to use novel techniques to engage students, to explain concepts clearly, and to encourage research. In the coming semesters we plan to continue to track student performance to quantify the effect of the integrated model on student learning. One of the major concerns is that different instructors teach CE 280 and whether other faculty members embrace this model of teaching remains to be seen. In the coming months, an extended survey will be carried out to determine the expectations of the students, different departments which require CE 280, and the companies which employ students who have taken this course. Accordingly, a systemic change in the curricula would be initiated.


The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions made by our colleagues in conversations during the past three years. A special thank you to James S. Fairweather, P. David Fisher, Karl A. Smith, Donald 0. Straney, George VanDusen, Thomas F. Wolff.

This work was supported in part by the General Electric Fund through a grant entitled “Reforming the Early Undergraduate Engineering Learning Experience: Phases I and II” and through a grant from the Department of Education entitled “Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need.”


[1] CSE131, “Introduction To Technical Computing And Problem Solving,” URL http://csel31.cse.msu.edu/domsite/cps/classes/131/ 99_spring/classhome.nsf/?Open.

[2] Thoennessen, M., et al., “Impact of Asynchronous Learning Networks in Large Lecture Classes,” Journal of Group Decision and Negotiations, vol. 8, 1999, pp. 371-383.

[3] Wallace, D.R., and S.T. Weiner, “How Might Classroom Time Be Used Given Www-Based Lectures?,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 86, no. 7, 1997, pp. 237-248.

[4] Ibrahim, B., and S.D. Franklin, “Advanced Educational Uses Of The World-Wide Web,” Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, vol. 27, 1995, pp. 871-877.

[5] Mourtos, N.J., “The Nuts And Bolts Of Co-Operative Learning In Engineering,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 86, no. 1, 1997, pp. 35-37.

[6] Kashy, E., G. Albertelli, M. Thoennessen, Yihjia Tsai, and D.A. Kashy, ALN Technology on Campus: Success and Problems, Proceedings of the 2000 Frontiers in Education Conference, ASEE/IEEE, October, 2000, pp. S1D.1-S1D.6


Depatment of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michigan State University


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michigan State University


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michigan State University


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michigan State University


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michigan State University


Susan Masten is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University. She received her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Harvard University in 1986. Professor Masten’s research involves the use of chemical oxidants for the remediation of soils, water, and wastewater. Her research is presently focused on the use of ozone for the reducing the concentration of disinfection by-products in drinking water and a reduction in the toxicity of ozonation by-products formed from the ozonation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and pesticides. Dr. Masten was a Lilly Teaching Fellow during the 1994-1995 Academic Year. During that year she focused her efforts on developing methods to better evaluate individual efforts within team-based projects. She has published a number of papers on collaborative learning and continually is trying to refine its use in her

classes and assist other faculty in their efforts. Dr. Masten is also the recipient of the Withrow Distinguished Scholar Award, College of Engineering, MSU, March, 1995, and the Teacher-Scholar Award, Michigan State University, February, 1996. She was also a member of the Faculty Writing Project, Michigan State University, May, 1996.

Address: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824; telephone: 517-353-8539; fax: 517-355-0250; e-mail: masten@egr.msu.edu.

Mr. Kuan-Chung Chen is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University. He has a B.S. degree in Environmental Science and a M.S. degree in Civil Engineering, both from Feng Chia University, Taiwan. His research involves the use of ozone in drinking water treatment for controlling the formation of disinfection-byproducts. He also assisted in the development of CAPA software for Introduction to Environmental Engineering.

Address: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824; telephone: 517-353-9059; fax: 517-355-0250; e-mail: chenkua2@msu.edu.

Mr. Jaime Graulau-Santiago obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Department of Civil Engineering, UPR-Mayaguez. He is presently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Michigan State University. His current research interest includes mathematical modeling of fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater. He is also interested in developing strategies for improving engineering and science teaching. Mr. Graulau was recently awarded with the GE Fund Faculty for the Future Fellowship.

Address: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 48824; telephone: 517-353-9059; fax: 517-355-0250; e-mail: graulaus@egr.msu.edu.

Mr. Kari received his B. Eng. degree from Maharashtra Institute of Technology in 1996. He received his M.S. at MSU during the summer of 1999. He assisted in the early development of the CE 280 website and the web-based quizzes. Upon graduating from MSU he worked for MicroStrategy in McLean, Virginia.

Dr. Kyung-Hyuk Lee received the B.S and M.S degrees from Yonsei University, Korea in 1996 and 1998, respectively. He obtained his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2001. His research involved the effect of ozonation pathways on the formation of disinfection by-products in drinking water. While a Ph.D. student he also assisted in the development of CAPA software for Introduction to Environmental Engineering. He presently works for Samsung Engineering Research and Development Center as a Researcher.

Address: Samsung Engineering Research and Development Center, Su-ji, Yongin, Kyung-ki, Korea 449-844; telephone: 82-2– 3458-3651; fax: 82-31-266-3447; e-mail: leekyu11@samsung. co.kr.

Copyright American Society for Engineering Education Jan 2002

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