Dissemination of Innovations from an Educational Research Project through Focused Workshops

  • P. K. Raju
  • Chetan S Sankar
  • Gerald Halpin
  • Glennelle Halpin


During 1996, the Laboratory for Innovative Technology and Engineering Education (LITEE) was created at Auburn University. The mission of the laboratory is to develop and disseminate innovative instructional materials that bring real-world issues into classrooms, using multimedia information technologies and crossdisciplinary teams. We have developed seven multimedia case studies in partnership with industries in the region to bring real-world engineering problems into classrooms. The case studies illustrate in detail how an industrial problem is analyzed and a solution found. The format chosen by us enables the students to experience a real problem, develop a solution, and then compare their proposed solution with what was actually done. These innovative educational materials have received several awards, including the Thomas C. Evans, Jr., Instructional Unit Award from the ASEE Southeastern Section, the Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware awarded by NEEDS, and the ASME Curriculum Innovation Award. In order to disseminate these materials to other faculty, we initially utilized conventional methods such as presentations at conferences, publications in journals, and marketing the materials through a traditional publisher. However, we found that these methods were not reaching engineering educators. This realization seems to corroborate the analysis reported in the NSF Report on the Evaluation of the Instructional Materials Development (IMD) Program. This report states that large publishers and professors tend to shy away from reform-oriented instructional materials because they are new and controversial and that a major barrier faced by the developers is the perceived absence of a market for reform-oriented materials. We then developed a focused workshop, with the pilot session held during May 2000, with the assistance of sponsorship from the National Science Foundation to provide faculty with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience using our multimedia case studies. This workshop was very successful, and the evaluation results encouraged us to offer additional workshops during 2001 and 2002. The feedback and evaluations from these workshops have been extremely positive, and we have now formed partnerships with faculty members in several universities in order to disseminate these educational materials. The participants enjoyed the program, facilities, and energy and excitement of workshop members; and they felt that the workshops were unique and important in disseminating the type of innovative instructional materials that can bring real-world issues into classrooms. We conclude that focused workshops are an excellent means of disseminating innovative educational materials developed by faculty.