Online course eases graduation path for undergrads

Featured Faculty: Mark Hansen

Mark Hansen

Always aiming to improve its undergraduate experience, Berkeley CEE plans to offer online versions of lower division courses that can be a bottleneck to on-time graduation for both 4-year and transfer students.

One such course is CE93: Engineering Data Analysis—in which students learn concepts and methods of probability theory and statistical inference using civil and environmental engineering problems.

Students take CE93 in their sophomore year. However, junior transfers take it during their first year at Berkeley—the junior year—on top of the heavy course load required of a CEE junior.

Many students become overwhelmed right here. And the result is they may need to stay an extra semester in order to complete all their requirements for graduation.

By putting CE93 online, Berkeley students can take the course in the summer. Junior transfers can complete this requirement before ever arriving on campus. Because many UC CEE students are required to take a similar course, students throughout California can take advantage of an online CE93.

Transportation Engineering Professor Mark Hansen [left] is developing the online CE93 for launch in AY 2016-17.  To prepare, Hansen offered this spring's CE93 as a flipped course. A flipped course inverts the traditional course format of the classroom lecture and the out-of-class problem-solving and work assignments. In the case of CE93, students watch Hansen’s lecture on YouTube and then, during class time, they participate in discussion and exercises related to the lecture.

Hansen’s YouTube lectures will become the material for the eventual online CE93.

"The flipped format gives students an opportunity to go over the materials at their own pace," says Baiyu Chen, class GSI. "They can go back to any part of the lecture that they didn't understand fully.

"And then during the in-person class time, students have a chance to voice their questions as well as use what they have learned to solve problems. There is less time spent in explaining the lecture material, and more time spent in lively discussion."

"Students are enthusiastic about the flipped format,” adds Hansen. “My office hours are filled with students who are really engaged with the material."

In the beginning, Hansen needs to invest more of his time to create an online version of his lectures (“You edit yourself more for an online lecture—because you can—than for a classroom lecture,” he says.) However, going online will eventually benefit both the instructors and students. Instructors will have the basics of their material—the “static” portion—ready to go. They can then spend more time refreshing the material and making sure it remains relevant.

“Students will really benefit from this. More attention to refreshing content will ensure more lively material for them,” says Hansen.

UC's Office of the President funded CEE's proposal to develop an online CE93 through its Innovative Learning Technology Initiative Course Awards program.

Published 06/22/2015