Strengthening the Community College Engineering Programs through Alternative Learning Strategies: Developing an Online Engineering Graphics Course
Community colleges play an important role in educating future engineers and scientists, especially students from traditionally underrepresented groups. Two-plus-two programs and articulation agreements between community colleges and four-year institutions allow community college students to take their lower-division courses at local community colleges and then transfer to a university to complete their baccalaureate degrees. For many small community colleges, however, developing a comprehensive transfer engineering program can be challenging due to a lack of facilities, resources, and local expertise. As a result, many community college students transfer without completing the necessary courses for transfer, making timely completion of degrees difficult. Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, three community colleges in California collaborated to develop resources and teaching strategies to enable small community college engineering programs to support a comprehensive set of lower-division engineering courses that are delivered either completely online, or with limited face-to-face interactions. The biggest challenge in developing such strategies lies in designing and implementing courses that have lab components. This paper focuses on the development and testing of the teaching and learning resources for Engineering Graphics, which is a four-unit course covering the principles of engineering drawings, computer-aided design, and the engineering design process. The paper also presents the results of the implementation of the curriculum, as well as a comparison of the outcomes of the online course with those from a regular, face-to-face course. Student performance on labs and tests in the two parallel sections of the course are compared. Additionally student surveys conducted in both the online and face-to-face courses are used to document and compare students’ perceptions of their learning experience, the effectiveness of the course resources, their use of these resources, and their overall satisfaction with the course.