Lead Institution: Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Collaborating Institutions: U.S. and international companies; universities, high schools, camps, industries; Hampton University researches effects of implementation; University of West Georgia provides external evaluation
Date Implemented: August 1996
Program Description: LITEE is a collaborative effort between the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering (P.K. Raju, Director) and College of Business (Chetan Sankar, Co-director) that disseminates cutting-edge instructional materials and strategies to undergraduate classrooms. Through case studies and hands-on projects, LITEE works to enhance the skills of engineering students by developing their decision-making, leadership, communication, and holistic problem-solving skills, providing an opportunity to apply technical skills to solve practical problems. LITEE works with industrial partners to identify a problem and bring it alive in the classroom by creating a multimedia case study. Faculty and graduate students from the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Management, Psychology, and Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology collaborate to create case studies, implement them in department courses, and evaluate their effectiveness. Each case study is tested for pedagogy and content with faculty and students at different institutions. Eighteen case studies have been developed and are being used at 60 US colleges and universities as a result of the LITEE Case Study National Dissemination Project, through which instructors are chosen to test case studies in their classrooms and publish their findings. Over 10,000 engineering students have been impacted, and LITEE conducts workshops to give over 1,000 faculty and instructors hands-on experience with cases to help better utilize them. LITEE includes a generic instructional strategy that can be adapted to teach a wide range of courses using case studies. The instructional strategy steps are: develop a course map identifying the required content of a particular course, the capabilities students are expected to develop in it, and how the case study can best be used to teach the content and achieve the expected capabilities; use the course map and new instructional strategy to teach the course, including preparation, application, and assessment; and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation and refine the strategy as necessary. LITEE also conducts a U.S.-India Research Program, providing students with a rich cultural and research experience working on a problem, with the results transformed into case studies showcasing global engineering issues.
Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: The instructional strategy was expected to increase students’ engineering self-efficacy, or confidence in their engineering abilities, which would lead to better performance in the classroom and an increase in the retention of engineering students. The team also anticipated an increase in students’ perception of their own higher-order cognitive and team working skills. Finally, they hoped for an improvement in students’ grades. The results thus far show that students, especially female and minority students, in sections using LITEE case studies tend to consider that their higher-order cognitive skills and team working skills have improved significantly, as has their intention to stay in engineering programs. Longitudinal evaluation has shown that students from these groups also tend to have higher college grade point averages. These results suggest that the LITEE curriculum employed for the engineering students leads to improved student learning and advancement in engineering. Additionally, the undergraduate and graduate students who participated in the development of the LITEE curriculum and are now working in industry overwhelmingly report that their interpersonal skills, written communication skills, presentation skills, leadership skills, team-working skills, and project management skills had all improved.
Assessment Information: The LITEE team embarked on a systematic evaluation of the instructional strategy using an evaluation team composed of statistical and education experts. Several multimedia case studies were developed and used as a primary instructional mode in Auburn freshman engineering classes over a 2-year period. Answers to survey questions provided by students in the comparison and experimental groups were compared to determine whether there were any significant differences in achieving the needed learning outcomes. Students were longitudinally tracked in order to determine the impact, if any, of this innovative teaching approach on their GPA. The longitudinal evaluation revealed markedly higher GPAs for students from the experimental classes, as well as higher acceptance rates into professional programs (mechanical, electrical, etc.) within the College of Engineering. These results suggest that an instructional approach using multimedia case studies is indeed an innovation that leads to improved student learning and advancement in engineering.
Funding/Sustainability: The program has been funded by NSF and industry support. Approximately $3.5 million has been used to design, develop, and implement the program. The LITEE team also trains doctoral, master’s, and undergraduate students in conducting research on engineering education. To date, the team has trained more than 80 undergraduate, 40 master’s, and 8 doctoral students. The program received a five-year $3 million IGERT grant from NSF to expand the curriculum to teach graduate students real-world issues. In addition, LITEE is currently working with a private company, Toolwire, Inc., to develop immersive scenarios based on the multimedia case studies. In order to promote scholarship in STEM education and disseminate research results, LITEE publishes the Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research (www.jstem.org). The Journal features high-quality case studies and research articles that showcase the latest in STEM education research.