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Journal of Civil Engineering Education ; 149(4), 2023.
Article in English | Scopus | ID: covidwho-20244533


The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented disruptions in models for engineering student training. At The Citadel, an undergraduate-focused college in the Southeastern United States, a variety of modalities were implemented following the onset of the pandemic, including emergency online and Hyflex learning. We conducted a longitudinal study to analyze the cognitive load among our undergraduate engineering students throughout changing modalities. Using data from the NASA Task Load Index (TLX) and open-ended reflections on student challenges, we found that total workload (a surrogate for cognitive load) was generally highest during emergency online learning in the second half of Spring 2020 semester, with experiences possibly varying across different demographic and academic groups. Emergency online challenges were often related to time management, personal organization, and responsibility for learning. In contrast, HyFlex challenges were often related to technology and communication challenges. While emergency online learning was a cognitive load disruption, that disruption was often associated with personal and/or academic development. HyFlex learning mediated cognitive load disruption;although, student challenges may have been simple nuisances rather than mediators of developmental change. © 2023 American Society of Civil Engineers.

9th Research in Engineering Education Symposium and 32nd Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference: Engineering Education Research Capability Development, REES AAEE 2021 ; 1:193-201, 2021.
Article in English | Scopus | ID: covidwho-2206999


CONTEXT A primarily undergraduate military college shifted from face-to-face instruction to emergency online instruction in Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are examining student experiences with the shift using Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), which asserts that learning is hindered when cognitive load overwhelms finite working memory capacity. At the onset of the pandemic, we hypothesized that the need to manage learning in new and changing modalities may increase students' cognitive load and development. PURPOSE OR GOAL We seek to triangulate a previous finding that middle-years students experienced more cognitive load demands than either freshmen or seniors during the Spring 2020 semester. In this study, we examine cognitive load experienced by students in sophomore-, junior-, and senior-level civil engineering courses when engaging in various types of summative assessments. Our goal was to understand how academic course level and assessment type (closed-ended vs. open-ended) may have impacted cognitive load among students. APPROACH OR METHODOLOGY/METHODS We are engaged in a longitudinal mixed-methods study to explore the impacts of changing modalities on cognitive load and student development during the pandemic. For this study, we measured cognitive load experienced during five assessments administered across civil engineering courses of different academic levels using the NASA Task Load Index (TLX). The TLX is a rigorously-developed instrument that quantifies workload (a surrogate for cognitive load) across six dimensions: mental demand, physical demand, temporal demand, performance, effort, and frustration. We used non-parametric analysis to identify differences in cognitive workload by course level and assessment type. We supplemented interpretation of findings through analysis of open-ended questions and focus group transcripts. ACTUAL OR ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES Sophomores and juniors experienced summative assessments differently than seniors, a finding that is consistent with our previous publications suggesting that modality changes may have disproportionately impacted middle-years students. Analysis of TLX data showed that sophomores and juniors reported highest time-demand and frustration, respectively, during closed-ended assessments. Open-ended assessments elicited significant frustration among juniors, a trend that was not observed for seniors. Qualitatively, both sophomores and juniors discussed workload-associated aspects of the modality shift more than seniors. CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS/SUMMARY We seek to further understand the unique experiences of middle-years students as a means for developing recommendations for managing cognitive load during online engineering courses - whether planned or unplanned. Copyright © Mary K. Watson, Elise Barrella, Kevin Skenes, Benjamin Kicklighter and Aidan Puzzio, 2021.

IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) ; 2021.
Article in English | Web of Science | ID: covidwho-1978360


Work-In-Progress: In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many higher education institutions in the United States rapidly transitioned to emergency online learning. At The Citadel, a residential military college with additional veteran/active duty and college transfer populations, undergraduate engineering courses before the pandemic were administered solely through face-to-face instruction. As such, changing modalities during the pandemic were a very new experience for our students. We hypothesized that students might develop improved self-directed learning readiness due to the need to manage learning in new and changing course modalities. In this study, we present changes in self-directed learning readiness among our undergraduate engineering students, as measured by the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale, at the beginning and end of emergency online instruction during the Spring 2020 semester. Generally, SDLRS scores increased during six weeks of emergency online instruction. However, juniors were the only academic class who did not experience gains in self-directed learning readiness. Interestingly, we earlier found that juniors experienced an increase in more cognitive load dimensions than other academic classes during the Spring 2020 semester. We are currently analyzing qualitative data and SDLRS scores collected in subsequent semesters to better understand the relationship between development of self-directed learning readiness and cognitive load.