Impact of Transitions between Online and Offline Learning During COVID-19 on Computational Curricular Reform: Student Perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Computational methods have gained importance and popularity in both academia and industry for materials research and development in recent years. Since 2014, our team at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has consistently worked on reforming our Materials Science and Engineering curriculum by incorporating computational modules into all mandatory undergraduate courses. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education as on-campus resources and activities became highly restricted. Here we seek to investigate the impact of the university moving online in Spring 2020 and resuming in-person instructions in Fall 2021 on the effectiveness of our computational curricular reform from the students' perspective. We track and compare feedback from students in a representative course MSE 182 for their computational learning experience before, during and after the pandemic lockdown from 2019 to 2021. Besides, we survey all undergraduate students, for their online learning experiences during the pandemic. We find that online learning enhances the students' belief in the importance and benefits of computation in materials science and engineering, while making them less comfortable and confident to acquire skills that are relatively difficult. In addition, early computational learners are likely to experience more difficulties with online learning compared to students at late stages of their undergraduate education, regardless of the computational workload. Multiple reasons are found to limit the students' online computational learning, such as insufficient support from instructors and TAs, limited chances of peer communication and harder access to computational resources. Therefore, it is advised to guarantee more resources to students with novice computational skills regarding such limiting reasons in the future when online learning is applied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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