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International 2011 Materials Education Symposium

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Communicating Materials Science to a Large and Diverse Student Population

Dr Jeremy Robinson | University of Limerick

Communicating Materials Science to a Large and Diverse Student Population

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Prior to 2007, the University of Limerick had three introductory materials streams. These had been designed to cater for specific student groups studying science, technology or engineering. This approach was deemed to be educationally deficient and wasteful of resources, and it was decided to trial a reduction of the three materials streams into one. Two new modules were created primarily based upon the third editions of Engineering Materials 1 and 2 by M.F. Ashby and D.R.H. Jones. In addition to traditional lectures and tutorials, the new modules had a strong laboratory work focus with eight experiments being performed each semester. With up to 450 students studying the modules it became imperative that a web based assessment procedure be introduced. Using an online system founded on SAKAI, it became feasible to assess many thousands of individual pieces of course work. The online system also allowed course content to be augmented by tests and quizzes and additional resource material. The new modules had to cater for a wide variety of students' abilities ranging from teaching training students to Aeronautical Engineering students. The challenge has been to make the course interesting enough for these differing groups while still being able to academically test the more motivated students. This has not proved an easy task and examination of student feedback suggests the subject matter greatly exceeds student expectations in that the module is considered to be very demanding. Reaction to the feedback has to be tempered with resistance to the accusation of 'dumbing down' the content. This presentation will outline the method of delivery and the steps taken to improve the student experience since the inception of the new modules.