Working with the community to develop authentic curricular material for hydrology education

Emad Habib
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Need: The overarching goal of this project is to facilitate the development, use, and adoption of innovations that support active-learning in hydrology and water resources engineering undergraduate education. This is accomplished by engaging instructors as potential developers and adopters in a process of iterative design, development, dissemination and propagation of learning modules that promote the use of modern tools, adoption of sound educational strategies, and use of real-world case studies to deliver authentic learning experiences.Guiding Questions: The creation of high-quality, sharable curricular materials requires knowledge of curriculum design and a considerable time commitment. The knowledge and skills needed to develop high-quality materials are often not taught to instructors. Furthermore, similar learning material is often prepared by multiple instructors working at separate institutions, leading to unnecessary duplication and inefficiency that can impact quality. Furthermore, the adoption of any new curricular material largely depends on evidence for their effect on student learning. Outcomes: We established the HydroLearn platform and professional learning experiences for instructors. HydroLearn is an online platform for developing and sharing high-quality curricular materials, or learning modules, focused on hydrology and water resources. The HydroLearn team has worked with three cohorts of instructors from various universities who were dedicated to creating high-quality curricular materials to support their students and the broader community. We tested and revised different models of professional learning with these cohorts, including: (a) instructors working individually with periodic guidance from the HydroLearn team, and (b) paired groups of instructors collaborating on topics of shared interests guided through an intensive HydroLearn training workshop. We found the following factors to contribute to the success of instructors in creating modules: (1) co-creating modules in pairs enhanced the usability and transferability of modules, (2) dedicating an intensive block of time (~63 hours over 9 days) to learning about and implementing curriculum design principles, (3) implementing structures for continuous feedback and peer-review to refine modules. A comprehensive set of learning modules were produced covering a wide range of topics that target undergraduate and early graduate students. Pre- and post-surveys indicated an increase in students’ understanding of concepts and technical skills after completing the modules. Broader Impacts: The number of registered users on the HydroLearn platform is 2478, ~200 of which are “instructor” accounts. The Google Analytics site shows 12,000 users who have used the HydroLearn modules over the last 3 years. The project has formally engaged 58 hydrology and water resources instructors from 52 US and 6 International universities to develop high-quality curricular materials, learn about and enact principles of effective curriculum design supported with research on the use of a workshop model and collaborative teams. The project has conducted several faculty training workshops and hackathons and produced multiple conference presentations scientific articles. We also developed a customizable HydroLearn module on curriculum design to be used by other developers. The workshop design, slides, templates, and review documents are also available publicly to support scaling up and adoption of sharable learning modules that meet the ever-changing needs of the field.


Emad H. Habib (University of Louisiana at Lafayette); Melissa A. Gallagher (University of Houston); David Tarboton (Utah State University); Jenny L. Byrd (University of Louisiana at Lafayette); Doug Williams (University of Louisiana at Lafayette); Belize Lane (Utah State University); Dan Ames (BYU)