Stimulating Active Learning in Hydrology Using Research-Driven, Web-based Learning Modules

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition


Seattle, WA

Publication Date



Stimulating Active Learning in Hydrology Using Research-Driven, Web- based Learning ModulesThe traditional approach to undergraduate hydrology and water resource education is textbook based and relies on idealized examples of specific engineering applications and unit processes, rather than examining the contextual relations in the processes and the dynamics connecting climate and ecosystems. Recent research advances in hydrology have resulted in new observational settings, instrumentation, modeling techniques and hydro-informatics and data sharing technologies. This study seeks to address the needed paradigm shift in undergraduate education of engineering hydrology and water resources education to reflect parallel advances in research and technology.This paper presents a set of learning modules that are case-based, data and simulation driven and delivered via a web user interface. The modules are based on real-world case studies from three regional scale ecosystems, Coastal Louisiana, Florida Everglades, and Utah Great Salt LakeBasin. These three hydro-systems provide concepts and scenarios provide unique learning opportunities on topics such as regional-scale budget analysis, hydrologic effects of human and natural changes, climate-hydrology teleconnections and water resource management scenarios(see next page for graphical illustration). The overall theme of the coastal Louisiana modules is in coastal restoration and the impacts of future restoration/protection engineering projects on the ecosystem and the ecological and economical services it provides. The Utah Great Salt LakeBasin modules include concepts related to snowmelt driven ecosystems, terminal lake watersheds, and flood prevention. The Florida Everglades modules cover processes that connect the hydrology of the ecosystem to large-scale climatic teleconnections and implications for water and ecological resource management. Each learning module is a self-contained case-study focusing on a real-world problem. Each module begins with an introduction to the engineering/environmental problem at hand, and then presents an investigation of the basic features of the hydrologic setting and its main characteristics. The module then takes the students through an investigative process of the different solutions proposed for the problem and asks them to examine different design alternatives using data analysis, as well as model simulations. In some cases, the students setup and run their own computer models, and in other cases they use results from a pre-run set of simulations. To promote active learning, each module has a set of student-focused activities with specific tasks and deliverables. The use of observational and experimental data augment the use of simulation data and lead to an appreciation of the natural variability of hydrologic processes and the difficulties associated with using models to represent such complex systems. The place-based nature of the modules and the hands-on active learning activities provide a real-world context, stimulate student learning, and provide a resource for the development of practical skills as well as knowledge fundamental to engineering practice.Module effectiveness is assessed through an improvement-focused evaluation model using a mixed-method research approach guiding data collection. Both qualitative and quantitative data are collected through student learning data, product analysis, stakeholder surveys, and staff interviews. The paper presents evaluation of program fidelity, effectiveness, student learning, and potential for adaptation. Coastal Louisiana ecosystem used to develop learning modules with focus on restoration projects and their hydrologic/ecologic impacts Learning modules developed for the Florida Everglades with focus on climatic The Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah is used to teleconnections and ecosystem hydrology develop hydrology modules Surface Water Input- Runoff relationships

This document is currently not available here.