Use of the World Wide Web in Engineering
A Status Report
Ji, J., Mahoney, A. W., Moylan, S. and Ortiz,
WWW Enhancement of Face-to-Face Lecture
Implementation of Self-Contained WWW Courses
Web Distribution and Collection of
Text and Course Materials on the World
Web Resources and Examples
The use of the World Wide Web has revolutionized many areas
of life, and education is no exception. From its inception
[H1] as a way for academics to share information among
themselves, it has become part of the modern world economy
and a commercial hub as well as enabling communication between
diverse communities. Perhaps fittingly the Web has now come
full circle to become a tool for academics to share information
with their students.
The pace of innovation surrounding the development of computer
technology, including the Internet and the World Wide Web,
is staggering compared with the pace of the Industrial Revolution.
Indeed, some countries are still far from being industrialized
as measured by the standards of the West. Adam
and Wilson [H2] discuss this trend in the pace of innovation
and its application to university education. The IBM
Corporation [H3] has stated this conclusion in a somewhat
more alarming fashion:
Every professional environment has changed so significantly
over the past hundred years that if the workers of a century
ago were transported to their workplaces of today, few would
recognize the settings and tools of their trade--except
teachers. Only now, with the advent of information and communications
technology, have schools begun to see the present and potential
transformation already affecting other industries. The Internet
is altering the roles, functions and focus of teaching and
Technology has played a role in education for many years.
Distance learning has become more and more popular--particularly
as delivered via satellite video with two-way audio. However,
[H4] notes, "Television is associated with passivity.
The Internet is associated with interaction." Van
Houweling [H4] expresses this interactivity in terms of
Two-way video alone simply attempts to substitute an inferior
communication capability for in-person communication. Advanced
Internet provides a more flexible video interchange environment
and adds the ability to simultaneously interact with remote
instruments, visualize computer models, and access global
information resources. When video is run through a standard
network into a computer, expense is reduced, setup is simplified,
and access is ubiquitous. Further, you can couple the video
with the other modalities that computers enable.
On the other hand, some question the use and practicality
of advanced multimedia on the Internet for delivery of coursework.
For instance, LaRose,
et al. [H5] contend that "much of the interest in
Web courses in higher education may spring not so much from
improving the quality and accessibility of education as from
making it more profitable." However, these authors also
cite statistics indicating students in an experimental audiographic
Web course had test scores, student attitudes and teacher
immediacy ratings similar to those taking the same course
in a traditional lecture format. Audiographic Web courses
are those in which students listen to pre-recorded audio classroom
interactions while viewing a detailed course outline and illustrative
sites. In this case one could argue that at least one section
of the class must be taught live in order to provide the input
to an audiographic course.
Examples of Web utilization in university courses are legion
and one could scarcely hope to provide anything approaching
a comprehensive list of examples. However, a short list of
useful sites can be found below.
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WWW Enhancement of Face-to-Face Lecture Courses
We can divide the use of the World Wide Web for instruction
into two primary categories. Courses can be entirely Web based
and delivered--students and professors need not enjoy geographic
proximity and may never meet face to face. Traditional lecture
courses can be augmented with the Web providing alternate
means of distributing information and by offering students
a broad range of tools less likely to be available in traditional
We turn first to the augmentation of a traditional course
and begin by presenting some examples. Schexnayder
and Wiezel (1998) [H6] discuss a construction estimating
course at Arizona State University that "employs the
WWW to support instructional delivery of technical materials."
In this course, lecture notes were available on the course
home page at least one day before lecture, homework (answers
and calculations) was submitted electronically and grades
were e-mailed to students. Additionally, the professor encouraged
students to communicate with him via e-mail at any time. Calculations
were submitted on Common Gateway Interface (CGI) forms. Some
students complained that it took more time to enter calculations
on these forms than was required to actually solve the problem.
However, the ease in submission and expedited grading of assignments
were generally appreciated.
An important question when considering Web-based enhancements
is how the lecture time will then be spent. Wallace and Weiner
(1998) investigated two options. One option was using lectures
as a supplement to the Web material; the other option was
using lecture time to provide an experiential setting (practicum
or demonstration) which would aid in understanding of the
Web material. The latter proved to have a more positive impact.
Students in the experiential group spent more time studying
and received better grades. A survey of methods for using
Web technologies in educational settings is also contained
in their article. Of course, there are potential problems
with such a system. Wilgoren (2000) reports on the experiences
of students in an economics course at Wake Forest University,
one of whom noted that "[he hadn't] skipped [the] class
once. Even if there's something in class that's boring, there's
other stuff you can do." Wake Forest requires incoming
freshmen to purchase a computer as a condition of matriculation--tuition
has been increased and the laptops are shipped soon after
Although there were no specific complaints about the confidentiality
of grade information sent over e-mail, an alternative does
[H7] has recently introduced a Dynamic Hypertext Markup
Language (DHTML)-based score reporting system for students
to view individual assignment and exam grades, estimated course
grade to date and estimated class rank. Faculty members maintain
the database and students access personal data with a user
name and password.
[H8] claims "[t]he Internet can enhance the three
major activities of all teachers: to counsel students individually,
to deliver general information (lecture), and to encourage
discussion." Furthermore, Iskander,
et al. [H9] cite studies which indicate that computer
aided instruction provides a significant opportunity to improve
the quality of teaching, can be very cost effective and can
achieve a 50% increase in student retention.
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Implementation of Self-Contained WWW Courses
The impact of Web-only courses is substantial, affecting
both instructors and students. Several studies (Danielson
and Wood, 1998; Wallace and Mutooni, 1997; Lancor, et al.,
1996), suggest that Web courses allow students to learn wherever
and whenever they desire and offer the additional benefit
of allowing students to determine for themselves the order
of coverage of course material. In other words, students are
free to exercise their individual learning styles (Paterson,
1999). Additionally, reference material is now easily accessible
with a simple mouse-click and active student learning is enhanced.
Student activity levels are specifically increased by having
a variety of outside sources of information for the students
to explore. For instance, sites at other universities, government
agencies and industrial concerns will have content that enhances
or broadens students' perspectives and knowledge bases. Using
animation and computer simulation produces similar results
(Danielson and Wood, 1998) with the added benefit of allowing
visual learners a chance to exploit their strengths--something
traditional lecture courses seldom do.
A study done to address the effectiveness of web learning
versus traditional lecture showed that students enjoyed the
idea that they could view the material however they wanted
(Wallace and Mutooni, 1997). This comparison was done for
a project that stemmed from a single lecture. The students
either attended a traditional 90-minute lecture or only used
a web page designed to convey the same material. The "web
students" received better scores on the projects from
an unbiased jury. In student feedback, the most common response
from the web users was that they felt at ease spending as
long as it took to learn a specific topic, where in lecture,
peer pressure often deters them from spending that time. Data
gathered from monitoring the web site showed that the site
was hit at all hours of the day (or night), and that each
student spent an average of 103 minutes on the material, in
33-minute average blocks. This illustrates the freedom the
student using the web had compared to the lecture students
who were forced to learn the material in one 90-minute block.
While the previously mentioned study provides excellent quantitative
data, qualitative sources also discuss the benefits the web
can bring to a course. "Dynamic supplemental materials
such as interactive simulations and animations allow the student
to observe and evaluate the behavior of systems under different
conditions. Multiple media can offer a variety of visualization
aids to better match the different cognitive styles of the
students, and the interactive component requires students
to control their exploration of new material in ways the predominantly
passive reading of text and reference books cannot" (Danielson
and Wood, 1998). This statement encapsulates very well how
the power of the computer and the Internet can be harnessed
to benefit students. Since the students control their work
rate, they become more involved and learn by using their preferred
style. The interactive simulations
can simultaneously provide involvement and depth or breadth
to the course content. Even actual hardware can be run remotely
on the World Wide Web by students as demonstrated by Kirkpatrick
and Willson (1998). Additionally, the ease and speed of the
Internet makes including external sources very easy. As Kreabber
states, "The Internet allowed the class to 'see' more
and do more. Many industrial and technological leaders provide
outstanding information and resources on their corporate web
pages." Finally, higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy (Bloom,
1964) can be accessed by linking to real world projects and
articles which highlight the analysis, synthesis and evaluation
aspects of a problem. These aspects are not always adequately
addressed in course assignments or exams.
Of course, a real and significant disadvantage to delivering
courses over the Web is the amount of time it takes to create
the site and any Java applets that go along with it. Also,
these courses remove the focus of student attention from the
instructor, which means he/she becomes less of a teacher and
more of a facilitator (Bourne, 1998). Finally, it is worth
mentioning specifically that Web courses cannot entirely replace
the benefits of face-to-face interaction such as instructor-student
rapport, development of communication and social/business
skills and the opportunity to work on teams. In other words,
some of the "soft" skills sought by ABET accreditors
may be lost (Wankat
and Oreovicz, 1993 [H10]).
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Web Distribution and Collection of Assignments
While the responsibility of meeting the goals of student
assignments lies with the content, the distribution and collection
system should not impair this mission. The primary goal is
student learning, closely tied with student feedback in the
form of grading. The grading also provides feedback to the
instructor on the progress of the class. Evaluation of student
performance is necessary for students to take the assignments
and Oreovicz [H10], 1993). We will evaluate current methods
for homework distribution on the Web in light of these goals.
It is common to find homework assignments distributed on
the web; it is in general no more difficult than formatting
or typesetting the assignment for hard copy distribution.
This allows distribution unconstrained by class meeting time
(which may useful for courses with numerous sections), though
students may find it less useful if homework is assigned Friday
afternoon. The dynamic nature of web pages allows clarifications
and answers to questions to be posted along side the course
Once assignments are posted on the web, the natural next
step is to allow for submission of student work as well. There
are a number of different techniques that have been used successfully
for this purpose.
Forms on a web page allow students to record their responses.
This is very effective when integrated with an interactive
tutorial, to give instant feedback on students' progress.
The burden on teaching staff can be reduced through the use
of automated grading, though this necessitates restrictions
on the acceptable syntax of student answers. Even with human-graded
responses, the flexibility of web forms is usually limited
to simple text and numbers. While automated grading may reduce
the feedback available to the instructor, this can be obviated
by requesting a free answer rationale be submitted with each
problem. These can then be sorted and provided to the instructor.
This has been successful in providing feedback to instructors
in at least one class (
http://sll.stanford.edu/highlights/humbio/ [H11]) One
tool for developing online examinations with immediate feedback
is described in Jong and Muyshondt (1999). Heed must be given
to security issues, especially in the case of automated grading.
Standardized forms of submission are usually related to computer
generation, such as computer code, output from engineering
design packages, or calculations in computer packages such
as Mathematica. These are often required for grading and may
be submitted via email, blind file transfer, or through hypertext
transfer protocol (HTTP). All of these may be mediated by
a web page interface. Written reports are also candidates
for computer submission. In all cases, allowances must be
made for feedback to the students, recommending some sort
of portable document format that graders may annotate before
returning. Automatic screening for similarities may also be
utilized with computer submission.
Portions of engineering courses are focused on model and
equation derivation and analysis. This is often done with
pencil and paper, and the most promising technologies for
portability are proprietary software packages such as Mathematica
and Maple. Unless the use of these tools is specifically taught,
requiring their use for homework submission is problematic.
Additionally, the use of such packages often hides the underlying
thought processes as students solve the problem on separate,
ungraded, paper before transferring it to the computer. Also,
encouraging good problem solving practices, such as drawing
pictures, requires that this information be submitted as well.
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Text and Course Materials on the World Wide Web
In recent years Web publishing has become popular. In engineering
education, the World Wide Web is used effectively in distance
education. Even in traditional engineering courses, the Web
is also often employed to aid student learning and to increase
teaching and learning efficiency. Examples of the use of online
textbooks in engineering education are available below.
Online textbooks can be created by using a variety of formats
and tools. For instance, proprietary software may be used
that allows access only to authorized customers. Several existing
and freely available formats may also be used. Adobe
PDF [H12], HTML
[H13] (including Java [H14]
applets) and Macromedia
Shockwave [H15] animations are excellent ways to publish
material online. Each of these software tools offers different
capabilities. Adobe's PDF format allows any document to be
converted into a look-and-feel preserving electronic snapshot
which can be viewed using free downloadable software. The
HTML format is the current standard for displaying Web content
(including this page). Macromedia Shockwave allows sophisticated
animations to be created which can be viewed using any Web
browser equipped with a free plugin.
A prototype WWW-based textbook was developed for biomedical
engineering applications (Blanchard et al., 1997).
A Web textbook for molecular simulations was developed by
Cummings et al., (1998). Long, et al. (1998)
have created an online textbook in the absence of a hard copy
equivalent in ceramic matrix composites. WWW based textbooks
have the following advantages over traditional hard copy texts:
- more up-to-date material can be provided or referenced
through continuous revision;
- illustrative concepts and applications can be accessed
through convenient online links;
- the ubiquitous nature of the web improves accessibility;
- multimedia tools, tutorials and simulations are easily
incorporated in the body of the text; and
- feedback to authors and maintainers is much easier, allowing
for user comments and automated tracking of chapter/resource
Most of the advantages listed above would also apply to distribution
on CD or other removable media. However, updating the material
becomes more cumbersome and students are required to have
the medium with them whenever they wish to view the material.
Before online textbook adoption becomes widespread, it will
have to be economically competitive with traditional print
publication. One natural question to ask is how instructors
and authors can protect their copyrights given the inherent
lack of security on the Internet, especially since the best
way to encourage use of one's publications is to distribute
them in the aforementioned freely available formats. Password-protected
subscriptions can be sold, but such schemes may be easily
circumvented by students. Current technology seems insufficient
for providing the same level of piracy protection as print
publishers are able to achieve.
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Resources and Examples
Resources for Creating a Class Web Page
for Teaching with Technology A superb comprehensive resource
for using technology. Of special interest is "Getting
started with web pages" which has links to local
tools for course surveys, syllabus templates, and quiz generators.
Some of this material is specific to the University of Delaware.
LectureOnline Provides tools for putting lectures and
homework online with security mechanisms to restrict access.
Described by Kortemeyer and Bauer (1999).
"virtual resource packet" From a workshop on
constructing course web pages. Original material includes
guidelines for the organizational process of creating the
course web page. There are also links to reviews of editors,
for Learning and Instruction An outdated database of web
resources, including multimedia authoring sites, a database
of examples of the use of teaching on the web and other resources
sparse in the engineering area.
This form will quickly generate an informative web page for
a course that may be added to as the class progresses.
Information on designing class web pages with a number of
links, and an outline for involving oneself in the process,
from a single web page to interactive features. Some of the
information is out of date.
Center for Instructional
Technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. A collection of tools including quiz and survey builders.
of Applied Arts and Technology maintains a collection
of links to all facets of technology use in education and
many of these links useful to readers interested in both learning
how to implement the technology and seeing examples "in
the field." Some links are outdated.
General Page Building Sites
A comprehensive reference with tutorials for achieving many
effects. Much of the data is provided in an as-needed format.
provides access to both soft (images, fonts, graphics) and
hard (CGI scripts and tutorials) resources.
provides tutorials for beginners on creating webpages with
Microsoft's Frontpage Express.
provides links to numerous resources including the creation
of interactive features via CGI and Java, and document design.
Most content is off-site, and varies in quality.
For a more up to date list, http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/World_Wide_Web/Page_Creation/Beginner_s_Guides/
provides a current search in the Yahoo database.
Serf Integrated tools
for managing online components of a course. Sales to universities.
WebCT provides tools
for grades, notes, chat rooms, etc. Licensing is based on
total number of students making use of a particular server.
May be run from either a local university server, or WebCT's
with premium pricing.
Examples of Online Textbooks Currently in Use
An engineering technology text produced by the University
of Southern Colorado. Includes images and video which illustrate
concepts and provide examples of course deliverables.
Basic fluid mechanics text from the Czech Technical University
Principles of Electrical Engineering Materials and Devices
by S. O. Kasap. This is a downloadable textbook which may
be purchased from the publisher in one of three formats: Microsoft
Word, Adobe PDF or Adobe
A C Programming text offered as an electrical engineering
course. This is a complete text in its own right but is claimed
to be a supplement to a printed text rather than a replacement.
Ceramic matrix composites.
Textbook with many photographs and diagrams. Online homework
Places to Submit Homework on the Web
1201-1 Homework Page Homework submission pages requiring
fill-in-the-blank answers carefully constructed to allow for
Publications, Presentations - Problem Sets Experiment a Success.
An article describing the successes of online homework collection
and grading using the Web.
221 Homepage Email submission via Microsoft Word attachments.
Examples of Web-Based Interactive
Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University
Applications of Statistics course at Purdue University.
Requires Macromedia Director.
Experiments Hosted by Hewlett-Packard at www.educatorscorner.com
Interactive simulations of ferrous
metallurgy processes at www.matter.org
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Blanchard, S. M., Dewolf, D. K., Dillon, A. E., (1997), "Biomedical
Engineering Applications--a prototype World Wide Web textbook,"
Proceedings of the Annual Conference on Engineering in
Medicine & Biology, V. 2, pp. 922-923.
Bloom, B. (1964), Taxonomy of educational objectives,
Longman's and Green Publishing, New York.
Bourne, J. R. (1998), "Asynchronous learning networks
and world-wide engineering education," Engineering
Educator, v. 2, no. 1, pp. 3-10.
Cummings, P. T., Cochran, H. D., dePablo, J. J., Evans, D.
J., Kofke, D. A., Panagiotopoulos, A. Z., Rowley, R. L., (1998),
"World wide web based textbook on molecular simulation,"
Proceedings of the 1998 Annual ASEE Conference, Seattle,
Danielson, R. and S. Wood (1998), "Stimulating introductory
engineering courses with Java," Proceedings of the
28th Annual Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, pp.
Evans, R. M., Murray, S. L., Daily, M. and Hall, R. (2000)
"Effectiveness of an Internet-based graduate Engineering
management course." Journal of Engineering Education.
v. 89, no. 1, pp. 63-71.
Jong, I, and Muyshondt, A. (1999) "Simple scripts to
produce interactive Web-based tests with immediate feedback:
software and illustrations." Journal of Engineering
Education, v. 88, no. 4. pp. 509-525.
Kirkpatrick, A. and Willson, B. (1998). "Computation
and experimentation on the Web with application to internal
combustion engines.", Journal of Engineering Education,
v. 87, no. 5 Supplement pp. 529-537.
Kortemeyer, G. and Bauer, W. (1999). "Multimedia collaborative
content creation (mc3): the MSU lecture on-line system.",
Journal of Engineering Education v. 88, no. 4, pp. 421-427.
Kraebber, H. W. (1998). "Using the World Wide Web to
support teaching in manufacturing engineering technology."
Proceedings of the 1998 Annual ASEE Conference, Session
Lancor, L., Wurst, K. and K. Barker (1996), "A methodology
for web-based learning in engineering," Proceedings
of the 26th Annual Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference,
Long, L. N., Morris, P. J., Morooney, K and Kellogg, S.,
(1998). " The teaching and learning of high-performance
computing." Journal of Engineering Education v.
87, no. 5 Supplement pp. 591-597..
Paterson, K. (1999), "Student perceptions of Internet-based
learning tools in environmental engineering education."
Journal of Engineering Education v. 88, no. 3, pp. 295-304.
Schexnayder, C. J. and Wiezel, A. (1998). "Construction
engineering using the World Wide Web. "Proceedings
of the 1998 Annual ASEE Conference, Session 1221.
Wallace, D. R. and P. Mutooni (1997), "A comparative
evaluation of world wide web-based and classroom teaching,"
Journal of Engineering Education, v. 86, no. 3, pp.
Wallace, D. R. and Weiner, S. T. (1998), "How Might
Classroom Time be Used Given WWW-Based Lectures?" Journal
of Engineering Education, v. 8?, no. 1, pp. 237-248
Wankat, P. C., Oreovicz, F. S., (1993) Teaching
Engineering. McGraw-Hill. New York.
Wilgoren, J. (2000), "A Revolution in education clicks
into place." The New York Times, March 26.
World Wide Web References
A history of the World Wide Web provided by the World Wide
Adam, S. and Wilson, D., (1996), "Technological Convergence
in Higher Education: Are the Educators Ready?"
Snitz, J. and Young, J.E., (1999), "Models of Virtual
from the Panel on the Future of Networking and the Internet,"
Educause, an organization for application of technologies
R., Gregg, J., and Eastin, M., "Audiographic Telecourses
for the Web: An Experiment."
Schexnayder, C. J. and Wiezel, A. (1998). "Construction
engineering using the World Wide Web."Proceedings
of the 1998 Annual ASEE Conference, Session 1221.
Ashendel, C.L., "How to set up a Score Tracking and DHTML-based
Score Reporting System on Your Office Computer for Zero Cost."
M.H, "Using E-Mail, Web Sites & Newsgroups to Enhance
Traditional Classroom Instruction."
Iskander, M.F., Catten, J.C., Jones, A., Jameson, R. and Balcells,
A., "Interactive Multimedia Lessons for Education."
http://www.asee.org/pubs/html/teaching.htm Wankat, P.C.,
and Oreovicz, F.S., Teaching Engineering.
http://sll.stanford.edu/highlights/humbio/ "One Highlight
of Innovation Pedagogy-Human Biology Problem Sets"
Adobe Acrobat Reader.
A Beginners Guide to HTML.
Homepage for Java.
Macromedia, makers of shockwave.