Past Projects - Enhancing Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Past Projects

Helping Science Students Transition to College Learning

(Fall 2006 – 2011) Students often have a difficult time transitioning from high school to their first semester in college. Their expectations about coursework and their strategies for learning are often mismatched to the requirements of college courses. In this project, we are studying student learning in four first-year MCS courses (Modern Biology, Modern Chemistry, Physics for Science Students, and Calculus) in order to better understand which students make a successful transition and what strategies or expectations are associated with that success. We are analyzing student learning data that are produced from students' regular course-related activities, and we are correlating these data with additional information on students' attitudes and strategies. The results of this project will increase our understanding of science students' initial academic trajectories and thereby inform the pedagogical practices of faculty who teach these students.

Links Between Experience and Career Development at Carnegie Mellon

(Spring 2002 – Fall 2003) In this study, we have interviewed 123 past and current faculty members (both tenured and untenured) to better understand their experience at Carnegie Mellon, including what originally attracted them, sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and reasons for voluntary turnover.

We employed in depth qualitative research to explore the complex and subtle processes that guided the decision-making of both those who stayed and those who left.

The results of the project have impacted both policy and practice on campus.

Laptop Study

(Fall 2003) The use of laptop computers on university campuses is growing, and some colleges and universities are now requiring students to have laptops. However, little is known about how laptops affect the intellectual, emotional, motivational, and social lives of students and how their use affects the culture of the classroom.

In this study we are examining the impact of laptops in sophomore design classes. The study uses a control group design to investigate if and how the classroom culture, the process and quality of student work, and the social and emotional aspects of students’ lives are affected by the introduction of laptops in the classroom.

Multiple measures, including classroom observations, student interviews and surveys, and student design processes and products, will be collected to provide a rich source of both qualitative and quantitative data.

The results of the study will speak to many disciplines in which iterative design or problem-based learning are major components (e.g. engineering, architecture, information systems, drama, mathematics, biology, etc) and help these departments/schools in deciding whether requiring laptops impacts education in a positive way. This study also has implications regarding the future role of computer clusters on campus and models of software licensing.

Evaluation of Course Management Systems

(Fall 2004 – ongoing) Since its adoption, Blackboard usage has increased from 80 courses in the Fall 2000 to 675 courses in the Spring of 2004. The evaluation, using student and faculty focus groups and interviews, focuses on current uses and limitations of the Blackboard system, best practices, and features or functions that would further support best practices.

The data from this project will identify course management features and practices that support faculty teaching and student learning and will guide future evaluation and selection of course management systems for the university community.