Engaging online students: Effective teaching experiences in an Engineering Management and Globalization Course

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

The global pandemic saw faculty adapting to online learning in a hurry. Developing online courses involving interactions with physical objects and collaborative problem solving are particularly difficult. This session shares effective online teaching practices informed by learning sciences principles in a 2nd-year engineering course on globalization, product development, and entrepreneurship.


Nobuko Fujita is a learning specialist in the Office of Open Learning at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She has a PhD (Education) from University of Toronto and over a decade of experience supporting online and blended learning design in higher education.

Extended Abstract

The global pandemic triggered a rapid shift to remote and online teaching in Winter 2020. The unplanned for transition saw faculty adapting their on-campus courses to online learning in a hurry. Faculty found it difficult to adapt courses involving interactions with physical objects, such as dance, art, and science labs to online delivery, along with courses that involve problem solving such as those in math and engineering (Wise & Bergner, 2020). Undergraduate students struggled to stay motivated and missed receiving feedback from instructors and collaborating with their peers (Means et al., 2020).  Additionally, the coronavirus highlighted inequities in access to internet connections, software, and computing devices that connect us during social distancing (Fujita, 2020).  The purpose of this session is to share effective online teaching practices informed by learning sciences principles used to engage students in a 2nd-year engineering course that focuses on a semester-long team design project. 

The learning sciences is an interdisciplinary field of scholarship focused on the study of how people learn and the development of new ideas, methods, and ways of thinking about learning through collaboration of researchers in educational psychology, cognitive science, computer science, engineering, anthropology, and other disciplines (Sawyer, 2014). Learning science research provides potential solutions to the problem of unengaged, bored online students by allowing students to learn by doing and apply ideas through project-based learning (Kracjik & Shin, 2014). Project-based learning involves four major learning sciences ideas: active learning, situated learning, social interaction, and cognitive tools. Thus, it is well suited for informing the teaching of team-based design projects in engineering courses where students develop not only foundational knowledge but also the knowledge and skills needed in designing products, processes, and business integration (Pasek, 2017).

The session will present a case study of a large (200+student) engineering course introduces the general concepts of on globalization, product development, and entrepreneurship through lectures and weekly studio sessions that focus on a set of hands-on learning activities to promote creativity and design thinking. The activities are aimed at increasing student participation and quality of learning experiences through the use of gamification, information cards, fast prototyping and collaborative storytelling. The cultural memory game, for example, introduces a set of information cards showing significant artefacts from diverse cultures around the world to open a group discussion on diversity and communication. The prototyping of tinfoil hats combined with storytelling is a creative exercise to promote collaboration and team building. 

In this gamified session, the presenters will open the session with a welcome and introductions from the perspective of a learning designer supporting faculty transition to online delivery, and an experienced professor and teaching leadership chair teaching well-received engineering online courses at a mid-sized Canadian  university (5 min). The context for the online engineering course will be provided (10 minutes), followed by dividing into breakout groups in Zoom (or other virtual conferencing platform) for participants to discuss the presented hands-on activities and others from their own teaching practices (10 min). Returning to the main room, the presenters and the participants will play a Pictionary game using a count-down timer and whiteboarding tools, (15 min). Participants will have opportunities to ask questions throughout the session, and the final 5 minutes of the session will provide a quick summary and debrief of the key takeaways for effective and engaging teaching practices shared in the session from the presenters and participants.

Takeaways from this session: Attendees will be able to describe learning sciences principles, apply these principles to their project-based teaching contexts online, and discuss ways to integrate hands-on learning experiences to engage online learners.


Fujita, N. (2020). Transforming online teaching and learning: towards learning design informed by information science and learning sciences. Information and Learning Sciences, 121(7/8), pp.503-511. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0124

Krajcik, J. S. & Shin, N.  (2014). Project-Based Learning. In R. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 275-297). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139519526.018

Means, B., et al. (2020) Suddenly Online: A National Survey of Undergraduates during the COVID-19 Pandemic. San Mateo, CA: Digital Promise. Retrieved from: https://www.everylearnereverywhere.org/resources/suddenly-online-national-undergraduate-survey/

Pasek, Z. (2017). Assessment of entrepreneurial skills: Experience from a joint engineering-business class experiment. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA17) Conference. 

Sawyer, R. K. (Ed.) (2014). "The Introduction: the new science of learning", The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1-20.

Wise, A. & Bergner, Y. (2020). College in the time of Corona: Spring 2020 Student Survey Report, Learning Analytics Research Network (LEARN), New York University. Retrieved from https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/learn/college-time-corona-spring-2020-student-survey-report