Patterns of Topic Acquisition: When, Where, and in What Order?

Kevin Sevilla, James Morgan

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paper

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CONTEXT The CSU Engineering Program is the first of its kind in Australia. Abstaining from traditional methods of admission, content delivery, and assessment, in favour of a hybrid content delivery system (RealizeIT) that enables students to access technical content both online and on site. The RealizeIT system contains content within the CSU Engineering “Topic Tree” which is an online interface comprised of topics spanning approximately three-hours of effort containing technical content in civil engineering. Student Engineers are given the freedom to select content from over 800+ topics, and are expected to complete them at a rate of approximately 80 per semester in place of traditional subjects. This study focuses on the data collected through the RealizeIT system to identify when student engineers are completing topics, and at what rate they are doing so. The motivation for this study is to understand when students’ complete topics and at what rate. Uncovering the realities of the student experience in the CSU Engineering program has the potential to affect the recruitment and admissions process for the program, how topics are created, and how accommodations can be made to improve both the on-site and remote experience for students in the future. PURPOSE The purpose of this study is to identify how students engage with the Topic Tree, and identify the factors that correlate to topic completion and success. APPROACH This quantitative study collected and analysed data from the RealizeIT system to illustrate topic completion across the first 22 weeks of the course. Data was mapped chronologically across the semester and into the semester break (Week 0 through Week 22). With 28 participants, topic completion was analysed within four groups of seven student engineers and displayed accordingly. RESULTS The results of this study show clear distinctions between quartiles of performance regarding topic completion. With three primary phases of topic completion being identified, it is apparent that higher performing students not only complete more topics during the semester, but also during semester breaks and after the conclusion of the first semester. Alternatively, the combined lack of effort towards completing topics during semester and semester breaks explains the longitudinal differences in total topic completion seen across the cohort. CONCLUSIONS Based on the results of this study, it is apparent that the challenges of self-directed learning and the Topic Tree approach on student motivation and performance are ongoing. With a disparity in topic completion both during the semester and through the semester breaks, understanding the underlying mechanisms for these behavioural differences between high- and low-performing student engineers will be crucial to the ultimate success of the CSU model of engineering education. Means of scaffolding topic completion during the semester and educating student engineers on how to self regulate their learning across the calendar year are currently under way.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Subtitle of host publicationAAEE 2016
EditorsScott T. Smith, Yee Yan Lim, Alireza Bahadori, Neal Lake, Ricardo Vasquez Padilla, Andrew Rose, Ken Doust
Place of PublicationLismore, Australia
PublisherSouthern Cross University
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780994152046
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education: AAEE 2016 - Novotel Pacific Bay Resort, Coffs Harbour, Australia
Duration: 04 Dec 201607 Dec 2016;isbn=9780994152039;res=IELENG (conference publications)


Conference27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Abbreviated titleThe Changing Role of the Engineering Educator for Developing the Future Engineer
CityCoffs Harbour
Internet address

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