Enhancing Engineering Education: Investigating the Impact of Mobile Devices on Learning in a Thermal-Fluids Course

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected learning at all levels; particularly, in higher education, where levels of independence and self-motivation are required during distance learning. In engineering, distance learning adds another degree of difficulty to an already complex field. Comprehension in engineering requires the repeated use of diagrams, high-level charts, and practice problems. Mobile devices, combined with a technology-enhanced curriculum, provide an excellent platform for learning in engineering as it allows for clear illustration and the transfer of complex ideas at any time and place. In alignment with the social-constructivist framework, these facets of mobile technology provide additional avenues for student engagement and the extension of learning goals. This study utilized the Triple E Framework and a mixed methods approach to investigate the impact of mobile devices on engineering students’ learning in a thermal-fluids course. The overall aim was to understand how mobile technology, combined with a technology-enhanced curriculum, impacts engineering students’ engagement, enhancement, and extension of learning. Findings reveal that students perceived increased levels of engagement when utilizing mobile devices in their learning practices. However, instructional methods were identified to be the key factor leading to engagement. A small effect size of 0.37 was noticed, and a post hoc power analysis resulted in a test power of 0.55. Though a significant difference between students who did and did not utilize mobile devices was not apparent, students with university loaned tablets (iPads) had a larger increase in learning than students without. This paper is based on the author's master's thesis titled “Affordances of Mobile Technology to Facilitate Learning in Undergraduate Thermal-Fluid Sciences,” the represented data reflects content from the same.


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