Teaching Thermodynamics: Designing a Course That Compensate, Support, and Challenge Students' Learning


Chemical engineering thermodynamics is one of the driest topics in the chemical engineering curriculum. In most schools thermodynamics is taken by first or second semester sophomores, who undergo a cultural shock as they move away from their freshman engineering experience. The combination of a very abstract topic and very young students makes the teaching of thermodynamics a challenging experience. One of us (D.F.) has been teaching thermodynamics for the last twenty years. Approximately two years ago D.F. began transforming his class by introducing elements of cooperative learning and video clips. These changes were made with the help of an instructional designer (D.C.). In this presentation, we will offer the novice or prospective thermodynamics teacher enough elements to design a course which has, we believe, good chances to be a successful one. The availability of easy-to-use video capture and editing technology combined with increased capability to make them available online make small educational videos, often called courselets, a useful tool for instructors interested in expanding their classroom activities beyond the lecture time. This presentation includes such attempts made at Missouri S&T for an introductory undergraduate thermodynamics course. The convergent perspective of an instructional designer and of the instructor of this course will introduce: a) the learning needs addressed from compensating for prior knowledge to challenging high achievers; b) the technical and organizational strategies used to produce these courselets and c) the instructional tasks developed to effectively integrate this technology in the classroom. Finally both the feedback from students exposed to these small instructional videos, and instructor's perspective on the impact of this tool are discussed.

Meeting Name

AIChE Annual Meeting (2010: Nov. 7-12, Salt Lake City, UT)


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Chemical Engineering Curricula; Classroom Activity; Cooperative Learning; Editing Technology; Educational Videos; Engineering Thermodynamics; Freshman Engineering; Instructional Designer; Instructional Videos; Missouris; Organizational Strategy; Prior Knowledge; Technology in the Classroom; Thermodynamics Course; Video Capture; Video Clips; Chemical Engineering; Curricula; Design; School Buildings; Students; Thermodynamics; Teaching

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Nov 2010

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