Using Interactive Video Conferencing for Multi-Institution, Team-Teaching

Conference Paper (PDF Available) · June 2013with 83 Reads
Conference: 120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, At Atlanta, Georgia, USA
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Abstract
The use of interactive video conferencing (IVC) and related technologies to teach courses over the Internet is becoming more common. The typical model for a distance-learning course is a single instructor teaches students distributed in remote locations connected via IVC technology and a web-based learning management system to facilitate interactions. Our approach extends this model to include several instructors co-located with students at multiple locations (three locations in our case: Utah State University, the University of Utah, and Brigham Young University, who partnered to develop and offer a new, joint course on hydroinformatics to predominantly civil engineering graduate students at the three partner universities). The course was offered in the Fall 2012 semester to 28 students. This paper describes the novel approaches used in the course, the challenges and benefits associated with the use of IVC technology across multiple universities, the effectiveness of IVC for student learning, and the complications and benefits of having multiple instructors. Novel approaches include having separate instructors and assessment at each site while sharing course content, live lectures, and discussion forums. Challenges identified include originating content from multiple locations, building rapport with remote students, communicating effectively within a multiple-classroom environment, engaging local and remote students, stimulating critical thinking during lectures and demonstrations, and addressing different institutional regulations and students at each university. Benefits include the efficiency of involving multiple instructors through IVC and sharing their combined knowledge and expertise with students at different universities. Students were surveyed at the midpoint of the semester and after the course concluded to solicit their assessment of the effectiveness of course content and delivery techniques. Instructors self-assessed the course conduct at the midpoint and conclusion to reflect on the effectiveness of course materials, delivery techniques, and student learning. We used the results gathered in this initial offering to identify areas to improve the delivery in subsequent offerings using this new team teaching IVC model. Specifically, we concluded the need to increase active learning and critical thinking when using IVC and to vary learning activities to include non-IVC elements and individual institution elements.
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Paper ID #6973
Using Interactive Video Conferencing for Multi-Institution, Team-Teaching
Dr. Steven J. Burian, University of Utah
Dr. Steven J. Burian is an associate professor in the Urban Water Group in the Civil and Environmental
Engineering Department at the University of Utah. Dr. Burian’s career spans more than a decade during
which he has worked in design engineering, as a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as a profes-
sor at the University of Arkansas and the University of Utah, and as a director of an engineering design and
sustainability consulting firm he co-founded. Dr. Burian received a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engi-
neering from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Environmental Engineering and a Doctorate
in Civil Engineering from The University of Alabama. Dr. Burian has expertise related to the engineering
of sustainable urban water resources systems, including water supply, storm water management, flood
control, and waste water collection. He has taught courses in sustainable urban water engineering, storm
water management and design, water management, professional practice and design, sustainable infras-
tructure, hydrology, hydraulics, sustainable design, flood modeling, and hydrologic field measurements.
Specialty areas of research and consulting include integrated urban water management, low-impact de-
velopment, green infrastructure design, storm water management, flood risk modeling, vulnerabilities and
adaptation strategies for urban water systems, and the water-energy nexus. Steve’s research projects have
been funded by National Laboratories, EPA, NSF, DOD, DOE, State Departments of Transportation, and
Private Industry. His work has resulted in more than 50 authored or co-authored peer-reviewed publi-
cations. Dr. Burian currently is an Associate Director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center
and the Co-Director of Sustainability Curriculum Development at the University of Utah. He is actively
involved with several professional societies including ASCE, AWRA, AWWA, WEF, AGU, AMS, and
ASEE and is currently chairing the ASCE Rainwater Harvesting technical committee. Dr. Burian is a
registered professional engineer in Utah.
Dr. Jeffery S Horsburgh, Utah State University
Dr. David E Rosenberg, Utah State University
Dr. David E. Rosenberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engi-
neering at Utah State University. He also has a joint appoint at the Utah Water Research Laboratory.
His work uses systems analysis (optimization and simulation modeling and data management) for water
and resources management, infrastructure expansions, demand management, and conservation at scales
ranging from individual water users to regional systems. His work integrates engineering, economic, en-
vironmental, uncertainty, and when necessary, social and political considerations to plan, design, manage,
operate, and re-operate water systems. Applications include optimization for environmental purposes,
water conservation, computer support to facilitate conflict resolution, supply/demand modeling, and port-
folio management to minimize risk. He has worked in the Middle East, Calif., Maryland, and now Utah.
Dr. Daniel P. Ames, Brigham Young University
Dr. Dan Ames holds a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Utah State University. He
recently joined the faculty of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University in Provo,
Utah after eight years on the faculty at Idaho State University. Dr. Ames is a registered professional
engineer and in 2010, he received the Early Career Excellence Prize from the International Environmental
Modeling and Software Society and the Idaho State University Distinguished Researcher Award. He is
the creator of the widely-used open source GIS software MapWindow; has worked on several GIS and
modeling related projects funded by EPA, USGS, NOAA and NSF; and presently leads the development
of HydroDesktop, a free software client for the CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System.
Dr. Laura G Hunter, Utah Education Network
Dr. Laura G. Hunter is Utah Education Network’s chief content officer and station manager for public
broadcaster UEN-TV. Her team oversees the state’s online instructional services including the award-
winning UEN.org web site, professional development, digital libraries, educational media, online courses,
c
American Society for Engineering Education, 2013
Paper ID #6973
and content applications. She’s an adjunct professor at the University of Utah, teaching graduate-level ed-
ucational technology leadership and instructional design courses. Previous experiences include state Inter-
net specialist for Utah, public school teaching and educational technology research. She holds leadership
positions with national public TV and education groups and manages several state and federal technology
grant projects. Dr. Hunter holds a teaching license in elementary education with gifted-talented endorse-
ment, a master’s degree in elementary and gifted education, and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Courtenay Strong, University of Utah
c
American Society for Engineering Education, 2013
Using Interactive Video Conferencing for Multi-Institution, Team-Teaching
Abstract
The use of interactive video conferencing (IVC) and related technologies to teach courses over
the Internet is becoming more common. The typical model for a distance-learning course is a
single instructor teaches students distributed in remote locations connected via IVC technology
and a web-based learning management system to facilitate interactions. Our approach extends
this model to include several instructors co-located with students at multiple locations (three
locations in our case: Utah State University, the University of Utah, and Brigham Young
University, who partnered to develop and offer a new, joint course on hydroinformatics to
predominantly civil engineering graduate students at the three partner universities). The course
was offered in the Fall 2012 semester to 28 students.
This paper describes the novel approaches used in the course, the challenges and benefits
associated with the use of IVC technology across multiple universities, the effectiveness of IVC
for student learning, and the complications and benefits of having multiple instructors. Novel
approaches include having separate instructors and assessment at each site while sharing course
content, live lectures, and discussion forums. Challenges identified include originating content
from multiple locations, building rapport with remote students, communicating effectively within
a multiple-classroom environment, engaging local and remote students, stimulating critical
thinking during lectures and demonstrations, and addressing different institutional regulations
and students at each university. Benefits include the efficiency of involving multiple instructors
through IVC and sharing their combined knowledge and expertise with students at different
universities. Students were surveyed at the midpoint of the semester and after the course
concluded to solicit their assessment of the effectiveness of course content and delivery
techniques. Instructors self-assessed the course conduct at the midpoint and conclusion to reflect
on the effectiveness of course materials, delivery techniques, and student learning. We used the
results gathered in this initial offering to identify areas to improve the delivery in subsequent
offerings using this new team teaching IVC model. Specifically, we concluded the need to
increase active learning and critical thinking when using IVC and to vary learning activities to
include non-IVC elements and individual institution elements.
Interactive Video Conferencing
The use of IVC for engineering and pre-college engineering1 education is not new nor is the
assessment of its effectiveness. Numerous distance education courses make use of IVC and
textbooks have been written with sections on the topic2. Moreover, there has been a recent
proliferation of web-based courses offered for free (so-called Massive Open Online Courses, or
MOOCs, such as Edx, Coursera, OpenCourseWare). For example, Coursera
(https://www.coursera.org/) has offered more than 300 courses from more than 50 universities to
millions of students.
Like its predecessor, instructional television, IVC has typically been used to distribute instruction
from one instructor to multiple sites. This breadth approach has been lauded as a cost-efficient
way to distribute traditional lectures and increase access for students at remote locations3. In the
case of the hydroinformatics course described in this paper, we took the approach of involving
multiple instructors through synchronous team teaching. Rather than one-to-many, we adopted a
many-to-many approach where course sessions were divided among several instructors and each
instructor took a lead teaching role at various times according to the objectives for that session
and the expertise of the instructor. All instructors were also present in the classroom regardless
of whether they were leading that session or not and engaged students at each location
simultaneously through IVC. This synchronous, team teaching approach is a novel use of IVC
and particularly well-suited to the interdisciplinary nature of this course.
Synchronous, team teaching has likely been part of previous distance education courses but the
engineering education literature has yet to describe, assess, or recommend best practices to
promote student learning. Several past studies have assessed the effectiveness of IVC technology
in general for distance education or collaboration. One study concluded the effectiveness, in
terms of increased attention, is dependent on the characteristics of the material being presented
and the quality of the speakers making the presentation4. A meta-analysis comparing academic
performances of distance education students relative to those in traditional settings over a 20-
year period indicated that the probability of attaining higher learning outcomes, as determined by
final course grades, is greater in the online environment than in the face-to-face environment5.
Studies have also focused on particular areas of IVC that influence learning effectiveness
including interactions6.
Numerous past applications of IVC for engineering education have blended IVC with other
learning activities and teaching techniques to accomplish course learning objectives. In one
example, the instructors used IVC as a communication method for team projects7.
Overall, the literature on the use of IVC for engineering education is extensive, and even more so
for distance education in general. However, the use in courses team taught with multiple
instructors offered simultaneously at multiple institutions is limited. IVC in the course described
in this paper involved simultaneous two-way video and audio communication connecting
classrooms via internet protocol (IP) at the three participating universities. The core technology
relies on digital compression of audio and video streams in real time and used H.264/MPEG 4
video-coding standards8. The universities shared a multiple control unit (MCU), routing, and
scheduling was facilitated by the Utah Education Network. Course sessions were also recorded
centrally and made available for asynchronous viewing over the online common learning
management system (LMS). To facilitate student engagement during class time, the course
operated with continuous presence, meaning all classrooms could be seen on the screen at the
same time, rather than switching based on voice activation or manually. The IVC capabilities
varied across institutions, from temporary equipment to a new building installation. The
remainder of the paper describes the course offered and the assessment of the effectiveness of
IVC for synchronous, team teaching.
Course Description
This paper describes the first offering and assessment of a semester-long, 15-week, graduate-
level course that was taught by multiple instructors and multiple locations using IVC in Fall
2012. The course topic was Hydroinformatics (https://usu.instructure.com/courses/127332) which
involves the study, design, development, and deployment of hardware and software systems for
hydrologic data collection, distribution, interpretation, and analysis to aid in the understanding
and management of water in the natural and built environment. It addresses emerging areas
related to Big Data, cyberinfrastructure9, 10, real-time water infrastructure monitoring, and other
technical applications being integrated into water resources engineering research and practice.
The course evolved from a need to train students at multiple universities to conduct
cyberinfrastructure (CI) research in the water resources area. The impetus was a NSF-funded
project (EPS-1135482 and EPS-1135483) to provide and use CI tools, especially high-
performance computing, to enhance the capacity for water resource planning and management in
the two-state region of Utah and Wyoming. The project has as a goal to link technical experts,
modelers, analysts, high-performance computing experts, stakeholders, and the public through CI
implementation (Figure 1). Approximately 25% of the graduate students in the course also are
working on the research project as funded research assistants. However, the course is not
exclusively designed to train graduate students working on the project. The more general goal is
to train students to work with the water management CI framework illustrated in Figure 1 that
the research project is creating. This training will usher in a new paradigm for hydroinformatics
use in professional practice including students trained to operate and advance the new paradigm.
The grant teamed Utah State University, Brigham Young University, University of Wyoming,
and the University of Utah, with part of the effort identified in the proposal including the
development of a graduate level course to provide student training to conduct the high level
computational research in the water resources engineering and management discipline of civil
engineering. Rather than each school develop and offer their own independent course, the project
co-PIs decided to develop a single course to be team taught by instructors from the universities
participating in the project. The instructors had a range of teaching experience from less than 2
years to more than 12 years, but none had taught via IVC previously. The objective of the
partnership was to find a way to enhance the educational experiences through team teaching
activities using IVC technology.
Figure 1. Components and people involved in the research project supporting the development
of the hydroinformatics IVC course.
The course was designed to introduce students to core concepts within the field of
hydroinformatics, including data management, data transformations, and automating these tasks
to support modeling and analysis. The course was meant to prepare students to work in data-
intensive research and project work environments and emphasize development of reproducible
processes for managing and transforming data in ways that others can easily and completely
reproduce on their own to support analyses and modeling. The Fall 2012 course included both (i)
9 individual learning opportunities (generally weekly) focused on specific data management,
transformation, and automation tasks, and (ii) an open, semester-long project where students
worked individually or in small groups over the semester to discover, organize and manage data
for a hydrology or water resources problem of their interest. The course learning objectives were:
a. Describe the data life cycle
b. Determine the dimensionality of a dataset, including the scale triplet of support, spacing
extent for both space and time
c. Generate metadata and describe datasets to support data sharing
d. Discover and access data from major data sources
e. Store, retrieve and use data from important data models used in Hydrology such as
ArcHydro, NetCDF, and the Observations Data Model (ODM)
f. Develop data models to represent, organize, and store data
g. Design and use relational databases to organize, store, and manipulate data
h. Query, aggregate, and pivot data using Structured Query Language (SQL), Excel, R, and
other software systems
i. Create reproducible data visualizations
j. Write and execute computer code to automate difficult and repetitive data related tasks
k. Manipulate data and transform it across file systems, flat files, databases, programming
languages, etc.
l. Retrieve and use data from Web services
m. Organize data in a variety of platforms and systems common in hydrology and
engineering
n. Prepare data to support hydrologic, water resources, and/or water quality modeling
Semester projects, which were developed by both individuals and student teams, included
designing appropriate data models and automating data loading, manipulation, and
transformations in support of data intensive analyses or modeling. Class time included lectures
delivered by IVC focused on learning and developing data management, transformation, and task
automation skills, class discussions, code writing exercises to solve data manipulation tasks,
demonstration of software and data systems, and student presentations of their project work. The
initial offering had four instructors at three institutions with 28 students (seven at Utah State
University, fifteen at Brigham Young University, and six at the University of Utah).
This course was designed using two tenets of an integrated theory of learning, mental
representation, and instruction termed Cognitive Flexibility11. First, the course prepared students
to select, adapt, and combine knowledge and experience in new ways to solve problems unlike
other constructivist-oriented methods that stress retrieval of organized packets of knowledge, or
schemas, from memory12. Here, students navigated the conceptual complexities of ill-structured
domains to solve problems. Students were taught numerous conditions, each of which is
individually complex, that need to be simultaneously interpreted and juxtaposed to arrive at
solutions. While some course objectives were designed to establish clear knowledge structures
that can be reused, such as established hydrologic data models, the course also focused on
preparing students to be flexible and develop their own solutions in ill-structured situations.
Second, the delivery of the course was also inherently multi-faceted. If the course was offered by
one instructor to a broad number of students, as is typical in distance learning environments, the
instructor would likely present issues from a single perspective. By relying on four instructors at
three institutions with varying experiences and expertise, students drew upon the multiple
representations and inherent complexity offered by four instructors to combine hydrologic data,
model, and analyze results. It is challenging to find a balance between instruction that allows for
this flexibility and that imparts specific skills13. Adding the IVC distance education components
presented additional cognitive overload for students that instructors worked to mitigate
throughout the course.
The instructor team identified several potential benefits of the team teaching IVC approach.
First, multiple instructors could attend each class period and offer their broad and deep
knowledge base in several areas. These offerings could provide for a greater opportunity for
enhanced experiences for the students in multiple areas of knowledge. Second, multiple
instructors could respond in real-time to student questions and offer their varying expert
perspectives. Third, students could interact with students and faculty from different institutions
to expand their range of experiences and broaden their professional network. The assessment of
the course sought to identify if these hypothesized benefits were realized.
The instructor team also anticipated several challenges with the course offering due to its topic
area being outside of the traditional civil and environmental engineering area. These anticipated
challenges included trying to integrate students and instructors from multiple universities,
technical difficulties with IVC technology, learning the IVC system (a first for all instructors)
while implementing a new course and teaching approach, building rapport with remote students,
communicating effectively within a multiple-classroom environment, engaging local and remote
students, stimulating critical thinking during lectures and demonstrations, and addressing
institutional differences and differences among students at different universities. The assessment
of the course sought to determine if these anticipated challenges occurred and then solicit student
suggestions for improvement.
Assessment
Methods
The assessment of the initial course offering involved (i) administering mid-semester and end of
class surveys to the students, and (ii) instructor reflections. The midterm and final surveys were
both anonymous and similar (words were changed slightly to improve meaning of questions and
a couple of additional questions were added to the final assessment survey). The open-ended
questions were:
What went well in class? What contributed most to your learning?
What could have been improved? How could this course be more effective to help you learn?
Surveys also requested students to rate their relative agreement to several statements following a
Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree; NA =
not applicable or no comment):
_____ I learned a great deal in this course.
_____ Course materials and learning activities were effective in helping me learn.
_____ This course helped me develop intellectual skills (such as critical thinking, analytical
reasoning, integration of knowledge).
_____ The instructor showed genuine interest in students and their learning.
_____ The use of the interactive video conferencing format for the course helped my learning.
_____ Having multiple instructors from multiple universities helped me learn more.
_____ The interactive video helped me to establish a positive rapport with the instructors that
are located away from my home university.
_____ The interactive video facilitates effective communication between me and instructors
located away from my home university.
_____ The class sessions stimulated me to think critical about the material.
_____ The interactive video helped me meet and interact with students from other universities.
_____ It would have been helpful for my learning to have more time in class with the
interactive video off, and planned activities having me work with classmates and local
instructor.
Some of the statements assessed student opinions of general learning while others focused on
multiple instructors or the IVC effectiveness. The final two statements were added for the end of
class survey because the instructors were interested in these two particular aspects of the class
that were noted as possible improvements in the future. Instructor reflection occurred at the
semester midpoint and conclusion before and after reviewing survey data. Instructors shared
their reflections through email exchanges and a teleconference.
Results
The midterm survey was completed by 25 (of 28) students. The final survey was completed by
20 students. The numerical summary of results to the statement responses are shown in Table 1.
The results of the midterm survey indicated students agreed that they were learning in the course.
However, their responses only slightly agreed that the learning was being enhanced by the use of
IVC. In addition, there was only slight agreement that the use of multiple instructors was helping
them learn. The comments from the students in the survey suggested the IVC was actually
reducing the interaction among students and instructors at the three institutions. This was
opposite of the instructor team objective.
The student feedback in the midterm assessment led to changes in the instructor team’s approach
to using the IVC for team teaching. The instructors integrated direct questioning across
institutions, involved multiple instructors in class sessions more frequently, and engaged students
to provide project summaries and presentations. End of course surveys and comments from
students indicated that the modified activities and approach raised the value of the IVC and
multiple instructors.
One of the more telling conclusions shown in Table 1 is that students largely agreed or strongly
agreed that they learned a great deal in the course. However, they were less agreed on the
effectiveness of the IVC as implemented for this course. The standard deviations shown indicate
there is greater student rating variability at the mid-point in the semester than at the end of the
semester. Responses to questions #5-7 suggest students felt the synchronous, team-teaching
approach using IVC technology furthered their learning, but that more needs to be done to
facilitate interactions with students at other universities (question 10) and the approach is not a
complete substitute for offline, in-class activities with the local instructor and classmates
(question 11). Overall, the midterm and end of semester ratings are not significantly different for
questions 1-4, 6, 7 using the two-tailed Mann-Whitney test (P0.05), while marginally
significant for question 5 (P<0.05). We expand upon these quantitative findings with additional
qualitative observations.
Table 1. Mean rating of student responses to survey questions (standard deviation shown in
parentheses). Statement Midterm
Average Rating* End of Class
Average Rating*
1. I learned a great deal in this course 4.2 (0.91) 4.5 (0.77)
2. Course materials and learning activities
were effective in helping me learn 4.0 (1.02) 4.3 (0.65)
3. This course helped me develop intellectual
skills (such as critical thinking, analytical
reasoning, integration of knowledge)
3.9 (0.81) 4.4 (0.69)
4. The instructor showed genuine interest in
students and their learning 4.3 (0.92) 4.5 (0.77)
5. The use of the interactive video
conferencing format for the course helped my
learning
3.4 (1.08) 4.2 (1.12)
6. Having multiple instructors from multiple
universities helped me learn more 3.6 (1.12) 4.3 (0.87)
7. The interactive video helped me to
establish a positive rapport with the
instructors that are located away from my
home university
3.5 (1.30) 4.0 (1.03)
8. The IVC facilitates effective
communication between me and instructors
located away from my home university
3.6 (1.04)
9. The class sessions stimulated me to think
critical about the material 4.1 (0.83) 4.2 (0.79)
10. The interactive video helped me meet and
interact with students from other universities
3.3 (1.20)
11. It would have been helpful for my
learning to have more time in class with the
interactive video off, and planned activities
having me work with classmates and local
instructor
3.7 (1.10)
*(Likert Scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree)
The anonymous survey results were confirmed with a course summary discussion held the last
class session where students noted the key topics they learned in the semester – data life cycle,
metadata, data models, Python programming, Hydrologic Information System tools, and data
preparation and modeling. These topics aligned with the learning objectives for the course and
suggest students accomplished the objectives. Accomplishments were further confirmed with the
final team projects where student teams demonstrated these skills successfully.
The IVC effectiveness questions in general suggested the students were positive on its value for
learning and their satisfaction increased the second half of the semester. The instructor team was
aware of student feedback at the semester midpoint regarding the IVC approach, which led to
changes in the course delivery to engage students more through IVC with direct questioning, in-
class exercises, and student presentations. It is interesting to note that the change in mean rating
from the midterm to the conclusion increased the greatest for the questions on IVC effectiveness
and having multiple instructors. The final class discussion validated the efforts made by the
instructors to improve the team teaching IVC approach to specifically enhance the engagement
of students. The feedback suggested greater satisfaction in learning from the course, but also
improved assessment of the IVC technology and having multiple instructors.
On the survey comments, students noted that the multiple perspectives offered by the instructor
team were valuable. The students felt that, although they might not have become proficient in all
the areas of the instructors’ expertise as a result of the class, it was valuable to have been
exposed to that expertise to see the possibilities and gain ideas. The value of multiple instructors
was noted in the instructor end of class reflection. By design one of the instructors did not
provide prepared lecture material because of time commitment limits for this offering. At the end
of the semester it felt as if an opportunity to share a specific hydroinformatics application area
had been lost. However, the instructors noted that these strengths were not well integrated into
the lesson plans, but rather left to occur in an ad hoc manner through in-class comments and
questions. This is an area to be improved in future offerings of the class – to explicitly take
advantage of the instructor strengths, and part of this process is for the instructors to better learn
the strengths of the others.
The instructor reflection noted that the value of team teaching extended beyond student learning.
It also has had a significant positive influence on the instructors. Teaming provided opportunities
to learn hydroinformatics skills from other instructors, critique methods of teaching, provide
constructive feedback, as well as stimulate ideas and thoughts related to teaching, learning, and
research. There is broader value for an instructor to be involved in a course, yet not directly
providing the instruction, in terms of improving the course delivery at the time and in the future.
There were a few instances when one instructor not actively teaching at the time could be
following up on a student question or comment to provide a detailed response, web link, or other
value to the lecture at a later time. Following from the improved ability of instructors to interact,
student interactions across institutions were not well facilitated in the course. In future offerings
of the course, student interactions could be encouraged by hosting in-person mixers or
encouraging or requiring cross-institution student collaborations on one or more class activities.
A substantial challenge with IVC is to engage students at remote sites. Student survey results
indicated that students felt the IVC was slightly positive in effectiveness of facilitating
interaction and enhancing student learning. This response on the midterm survey led instructors
to call out by name and question individual students at all locations during the second half of the
semester; this questioning did help as the improvement in student response confirmed. However
it was a bit cumbersome because there were slight delays in the IVC system, the system
prevented eye contact, and instructors could not always see (or recognize) students at remote
locations.
The instructors noted numerous challenges with the team teaching IVC approach. Technology
was a hurdle to the success of the course. The classrooms had to connect and stay connected with
video and sound. But the equipment and rooms varied across institutions and it was not always
possible to connect or maintain a connection during the class period. There also were teaching
challenges including how to grade consistently (we developed a consistent rubric), address out of
class questions (which instructor handles them), and, as noted above, get and keep students
active. Some—but not all—of these problems were addressed in real time by an employee of the
Utah Education Network who facilitated the live broadcasts.
A major challenge with this course not related to IVC was teaching to a wide range of
backgrounds at different universities. The course was offered by civil and environmental
engineering professors. Although open to other majors, the student population was
predominantly from civil and environmental engineering. In fact, 27 of the 28 students were in
civil and environmental engineering, although advertisement was made to many majors. The
instructor team felt that civil and environmental engineering graduate students might struggle to
see the importance of material at the interface of computer science. To overcome this challenge,
the team set out to make it clear that collection, quality checking, analysis, visualization, storage,
and management of data are critical for civil and environment engineering research and are
becoming more common in practice. The team provided numerous examples of how this is the
case, not only related to the project funding the course development but also to other projects
both indirectly related and totally unrelated. We assessed at the midterm and at the conclusion of
the course whether the students felt the course content was relevant for their major.
Students did appreciate the broad scope of the project and forcing people out of their comfort
zone. Students undertook a broad range of projects (see final write-ups at
https://usu.instructure.com/courses/127332/wiki/studentfinalprojectresults) and learned that there
is commonality and tools to bridge gaps.
Another challenge was logistical in terms of finding common days and a time to meet that fit the
varied university class and holiday schedules. A further logistical challenge was settling on a
common course content system to deliver course materials (handouts, lecture materials,
assignments, post videos of lectures. etc.). This required support and assistance from University
distance learning staff.
Although the course instructors were motivated to train engineering students in computer science
and informatics oriented areas, we were less sure how to do this with a cross section of students
having varied experience in computer science type courses and research. Essentially, it raised a
challenge of having to teach to an advanced set of students with different levels of entering
knowledge and skills in a topic area that requires computer programming, database management,
and web-based analysis and visualization not typically included in civil and environmental
engineering coursework or research.
The team plans to again offer the course in Fall 2013 and add a fourth university. This addition
will likely exacerbate several of the logistical challenges discussed above. But the addition also
offers an opportunity to improve upon the strong foundation and increase the reach of this new
hydroinformatics course and synchronous, team-taught method to offer it.
Conclusion
This paper described a new hydroinformatics course and synchronous, team-taught method to
offer the course simultaneously at three universities. The course includes instructors and students
at each location and uses IVC technology to synchronously and interactively offer the course at
each institution. Entering the semester, the instructors had little prior experience with IVC.
Student attitudes were surveyed and instructor reflection was used to assess the use of IVC,
multiple instructors, and other course elements.
The results indicated that students largely agreed or strongly agreed that they learned a great deal
in the course. Overall, the student agreement with the assessment questions increased from the
midpoint to the course conclusion – as noted in the rating means increasing and the variances
decreasing. This improved student rating likely was due to changes the instructors implemented
in response to student comments at the midterm. Specifically, the instructors become more
interactive through the IVC and developed activities to get students more active. In addition,
students and instructors became more comfortable with the IVC technology over time. This
improved use of IVC led to increased ratings that were marginally statistically significant
(question 5 from the survey results report in Table 1). In sum, the survey responses suggest
students felt the synchronous team-teaching approach using IVC technology furthered their
learning, but more needs to be done to facilitate interactions with students at other universities
(question 10) and the approach is not a complete substitute for offline, in-class activities with the
local instructor and classmates.
Post-class instructor reflection and a recent review of the literature led the instructor team to
conclude that the new team-teaching IVC approach must make the IVC activities more
interactive across institutions. Moreover, the instructors believe the course will be more effective
if the IVC activities are blended with individual institution activities in a way that creates focus
during an alternating sequence of activities and discussions strategically transitioning from all
institutions to single institutions.
The assessment of the first offering of the course focused on the attitudes of the students and
reflections of the instructors. The instructor team has already begun to develop assessment
techniques that target learning and achievement of objectives. These instruments will be
implemented in the Fall 2013 offering with results to be reported in the future.
Acknowledgments
The development and offering of the course described in this paper was made possible through
funding from the National Science Foundation, EPS-1135482 and EPS-1135483.
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