Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering and Technology Education


Ning Fang, Ph.D.


Engineering dynamics is a fundamental sophomore-level course that is required for nearly all engineering students. As one of the most challenging courses for undergraduates, many students perform poorly or even fail because the dynamics course requires students to have not only solid mathematical skills but also a good understanding of fundamental concepts and principles in the field. A valid model for predicting student academic performance in engineering dynamics is helpful in designing and implementing pedagogical and instructional interventions to enhance teaching and learning in this critical course.

The goal of this study was to develop a validated set of mathematical models to predict student academic performance in engineering dynamics. Data were collected from a total of 323 students enrolled in ENGR 2030 Engineering Dynamics at Utah State University for a period of four semesters. Six combinations of predictor variables that represent students’ prior achievement, prior domain knowledge, and learning progression were employed in modeling efforts. The predictor variables include X1 (cumulative GPA), X2~ X5 (three prerequisite courses), X6~ X8 (scores of three dynamics mid-term exams). Four mathematical modeling techniques, including multiple linear regression (MLR), multilayer perceptron (MLP) network, radial basis function (RBF) network, and support vector machine (SVM), were employed to develop 24 predictive models. The average prediction accuracy and the percentage of accurate predictions were employed as two criteria to evaluate and compare the prediction accuracy of the 24 models.

The results from this study show that no matter which modeling techniques are used, those using X1 ~X6, X1 ~X7, and X1 ~X8 as predictor variables are always ranked as the top three best-performing models. However, the models using X1 ~X6 as predictor variables are the most useful because they not only yield accurate prediction accuracy, but also leave sufficient time for the instructor to implement educational interventions. The results from this study also show that RBF network models and support vector machine models have better generalizability than MLR models and MLP network models. The implications of the research findings, the limitation of this research, and the future work are discussed at the end of this dissertation.


Publication made available electronically December 21, 2011.

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