The 2013 Harvey Spangler Award
for Technology-enhanced Instruction
Regina Murphy is an energetic, creative teacher and an educational innovator within the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
The Smith-Bascom professor of chemical and biological engineering, Murphy transformed CBE 250: Process Synthesis into a blended-learning course. This required course—the first in the challenging chemical engineering sequence—introduces undergraduates to the field and practice of chemical engineering. Through the course, they learn key topics, terminology and equations and develop an engineer's ability to sift through and organize data, identify a problem, make appropriate assumptions, create workable solutions and critically evaluate alternatives.
Traditionally, students in Process Synthesis attended two 75-minute lectures each week and took full advantage of the instructors’ office hours. However, Murphy felt the course, which has a strong emphasis on team-based problem-solving, was an ideal candidate for a blended approach that centers around the “instructor as coach” learning model. To start, she created approximately 40 hours of professional-quality video lectures, interactive tutorials and online assessment exercises that any instructor can implement when teaching the course.
Since Murphy introduced the “flipped” course in fall 2009, students now prepare for class by watching topic-based lecture modules. During the lecture videos, they also take quizzes, which vary in format and difficulty and help them assess their comprehension of the material. The technology enables students to navigate the material at a pace that serves their needs—and they come to class prepared to engage in group discussions and apply concepts and ideas they’ve learned. “I found that this is a much more productive method, since it gives students a chance to ask questions and put their skills to practice once they had time to absorb the material,” says student Jessica Zeman.
Historically, space in Process Synthesis has been limited; however, chemical engineering is an increasingly popular major. To accommodate that interest, provide extra flexibility to students, and reduce enrollment pressure during the fall and spring semesters, the department also has begun offering the course in summer.
Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Sean Palecek, who taught Process Synthesis in fall 2012 using Murphy’s technology-enhanced instruction template, says the format enabled him to delve deeper into the core concepts, enhanced student participation in class discussions, and resulted in higher average student grades. “By all measures, this experience exceeded my expectations,” he says.