Assessment of the Long-Term Effects of Technology Use in the Engineering Classroom on Learning and Knowledge Retention

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St. Clair, Sean William
Baker, Nelson C.
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A longitudinal study of the effects of instructional technology on learning and knowledge retention was conducted in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech. Instructional technology has been promoted as a means of improving knowledge retention among engineering students. The practical, long-term effects of such technology use were assessed at numerous times over a period of twenty-five weeks. Students in various sections of an undergraduate mechanics course used two different software titles, a structural analysis tool and an electronic textbook, in their studies of trusses and truss analysis. Two other sections of the same course used no software in their classes but spent class time solving problems by hand in teams. All sections were taught truss analysis by the same guest lecturer who also facilitated in the intervention. Demographic data, including gender, ethnicity, grade point average, and course load, were gathered from each of the sections and compared to assure group equality. Pretests were completed by students in each of the sections and also compared among treatment groups to assure that all sections had equivalent levels of prior knowledge. All students were tested immediately after the intervention to assess their learning of the material. Students were again tested ten and twenty-five weeks after the intervention to assess their long-term retention of the material. Results indicated that technology use increased students’ problem solving efficiency. The results of the assessments further indicated that all students had high levels of knowledge retention, but that there were no differential levels of learning or retention among the different groups. It was thus concluded that instructional technology can make the educational process more efficient without hindering long-term knowledge retention. It was further concluded that solving problems by hand in teams was just as effective at leading to high levels of performance over time as using instructional technology.
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