Design, Implementation, and Assessment of Experiential Learning Modules in Structural Engineering

Chris Carroll
Associate Professor and Civil Engineering Program Coordinator
Saint Louis University

Need: Civil engineers are responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and renovation of the aging infrastructure of the United States and a well-prepared workforce is crucial to its continued operation and improvements. Specifically, structural engineering courses are very rigorous, and the concepts are difficult for many undergraduate students to grasp; structural behavior is particularly difficult. The purpose of this project was to design and implement twelve experiential learning modules across four structural engineering related courses at Saint Louis University (SLU) and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Rose-Hulman) and assess the impact on student understanding of structural behavior. The project resulted in four modules in structural analysis, three in reinforced concrete, three in steel design, and two in foundation design.Guiding Questions: There were three guiding questions related to this project:1.Is it possible to develop and implement full-scale experiential learning modules within smaller civil engineering programs?2.What impact do full-scale experiential learning modules have on students’ ability to complete standard design calculations?3.What impact do full-scale experiential learning modules have on students’ understanding of structural behavior?Outcomes: The project team successfully designed and implemented all twelve full-scale experiential learning modules and proved that it is possible to do so within smaller civil engineering programs. Furthermore, the materials developed by the project team provide the information necessary for other civil engineering programs to implement similar activities within their undergraduate programs. Assessment of the project included both quantitative and qualitative assessments. The students at both universities in Year 1 and 2 were the control group and the students in Year 3 and 4 were the intervention group. Each year, students were given a series of exam questions related to each module in each course. Quantitative questions showed that the intervention groups were able to complete standard calculations on exams with statistically significant improvement on some topics after the interventions. However, the open-ended exam questions analyzed to-date showed deeper levels of understanding when the intervention group was compared with the control group. In addition to the quantitative data, qualitative assessment included the Student Response to Instructional Practices (StRIP) survey, a course content survey, and a series of open-ended questions about the experiential learning modules (post-test only). This data is currently being analyzed.Broader Impacts: Neither SLU nor Rose-Hulman were equipped with full structural engineering laboratories prior to initiation of the project. This project provided justification and acquisition of high-bay space at SLU and this project was the first academic entity to be granted access to and use of a newly acquired property at Rose-Hulman. The acquisition of these spaces have been instrumental in developing better student learning environments along with the ability to conduct experimental research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The project has also resulted in the development of several industry relationships.


Matthew D. Lovell, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terra Haute, IN; Kyle Kershaw, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terra Haute, IN; Ronaldo Luna, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO; John Aidoo, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terra Haute, IN; James H. Hanson, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terra Haute, IN; Shannon, M. Sipes, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN