SugarAid 0.2: An Online Learning Tool for Improving Engineering Exam Scores
This paper presents an online learning tool called SugarAid version 0.2 to assist in the education of students of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This tool has been used in both mechanical and electrical engineering courses with positive results, such as improved written exam scores and students’ positive attitudes toward using SugarAid. SugarAid can be used online at nanoHUB.org with remote computation; i.e. all that is required to use SugarAid is any device with internet browsing capability. The tool is intended to replace or complement course homework, and to provide custom review material that adapts to each student’s learning curve. The tool prepares students for in-class examinations by providing timed exercises, and allows the students and instructor know which ABET (Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology) concepts are being addressed. Immediate grading provides instant feedback to both instructor and students. SugarAid may be configured to display image files, function plots, multiple choice questions, detailed solutions, etc. A weakness function is implemented in SugarAid that works by remembering exercises answered incorrectly and tests for the retention of such exercises at a later date. Reference material such as lecture notes and data tables may be displayed in SugarAid. The latest version allows students to modify exercises to explore what-if scenarios by, say, replacing a resistor with a capacitor in a circuit. This paper describes SugarAid and examines various metrics including a comparison of exam scores by students that did, and did not, use the tool. The paper also describes the students’ perceptions of the tool, which were found from the detailed analysis of an online survey. The exam results, usage data, and survey results suggest that SugarAid has a positive impact on students’ performance and attitudes. Results suggest that students that used SugarAid averaged over a letter grade higher on in-class exams than students that did not use SugarAid.