Faculty Publications


Measuring the differences in spatial ability between a face-to-face and a synchronous distance education undergraduate engineering graphics course

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Journal/Book/Conference Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings


Distance education is growing at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Engineering graphics laboratory courses are unique in their focus on skills and design with an emphasis on a hands-on approach when compared to many subjects which focus on mastering information. Most studies in the literature focus on how distance learning has impacted traditionally lecture based curricular approach and have not focused on classrooms which are traditionally laboratory based as would be typically found in many engineering graphics courses. This study measured and compared spatial ability as it is an essential component to engineering graphics and has a highly correlated measure of success in engineering and other STEM disciplines. The purpose of the study was to measure and compare a face-to-face engineering graphics course with a synchronous distance education engineering graphics course by identifying the impact of the teacher's physical presence on students' spatial ability. The Purdue Spatial Visualization Test of Rotations (PSVT:R) was used to collect the data through a pretest conducted at the start of class and posttest administered at the courses completion. Results indicate a difference in spatial visualization progress for the two instructional mediums. Students with a low beginning spatial ability showed greater improvement (p < .011) in the faceto- face courses (m = 3.50, SD = 1.93), than in the synchronous distance education courses (m = 1.39, SD = 2.25). As suggested by literature, there were a high proportion of females in this first group, suggesting that female students may be impacted more than male students by a course with synchronous distance education. Further inquiry is suggested regarding how synchronous distance education impacts students with varying spatial ability upon entering courses. Likewise, further inquiry is suggested to look at how various methods of delivery in distance education impact spatial ability in engineering graphics courses. © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education.

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