Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Ning Fang


Ning Fang


Wade Goodridge


Oenardi Lawanto


Edward Reeve


Gilberto Urroz


Engineering Dynamics (ED) courses are known as challenging and demanding for undergraduate students majored in many engineering fields, such as mechanical and aerospace engineering and civil and environmental engineering. The course is built upon the foundation and framework of mathematics and physics and requires students to have strong abstract thinking and reasoning skills. Rigid body dynamics (RBD), the second part of ED, investigates kinematics and kinetics of rigid bodies and is considered as a difficult subject by many undergraduate students because the course requires them to visualize abstract objects in motions. Although there have been many studies reporting the uses of interactive computer simulation and animation (CSA) modules as visual learning tools in RBD instruction, the effectiveness of the CSA modules on student learning of RBD were not rigorously and adequately investigated.

This study employs a mixed method (QUAN – qual) approach and nonequivalent comparison group design to investigate the effectiveness of CSA modules on student learning of RBD, and to explore students’ attitudes towards and experiences with these modules. One hundred and sixty-one students in two recent semesters participated in this study: 74 in one semester participated in the comparison group and 87 in another semester participated in the intervention group. While the intervention group students studied RBD with CSA modules along with traditional lectures, the comparison group students studied RBD with traditional lectures only. Students in both groups were assessed with pretests and posttests using 10 bonus homework assignments developed to address core knowledge areas of RBD. The study uses a set of nonparametric statistical tools to analyze the pretest and posttest scores, mean differences, and magnitudes of the differences in learning gains between the two groups.

Research findings from this study reveal that the intervention group students showed a significant increase in learning gains of overall knowledge, conceptual understanding, and procedural skills with Cliff’s effect sizes of 0.49, 0.41, and 0.47, respectively. CSA modules increased the intervention group students’ confidence, but they did not increase students’ motivation of learning RBD. This study supports the use of CSA modules as an instructional intervention to improve students’ conceptual understanding and procedural skills in learning engineering dynamics.