This learning tool, with impressive graphics and animations, provides extensive examples, some theory, and engaging activities, such as games to assist teachers to teach and learners to learn "Mechanics of Materials", a basic course in civil and mechanical engineering.
The learning objectives are to (a) use animated illustrations and three dimensional effects to help learners visualize basic concepts, and (b) provide opportunity for learners to apply concepts in a wide variety of real-world situations using interactive activities that allow immediate feedback.
Target Student Population:
Undergraduate students in Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Engineering.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Knowledge of "Statics", which is usually a prerequisite to "Mechanics of Materials".
Type of Material:
Visual demonstration of various concepts related to stress, strain and deformation with interactive calculations.
Students will be able to use this web-based tool as supplemental study material Teachers may use the examples to demonstrate the movies in class. Students can also be assigned exercises that would involve the use of interactive calculations.
Browser must have the Macromedia "Flash" Plug-in installed.
Evaluation and Observation
This learning tool presents an impressive collection of examples that are useful in understanding the concepts in Mechanics of Materials. MecMovies covers all of the major concepts of mechanics of materials
Its major strengths are the impressive visualizations and animations included in the examples. Students can improve their skills by engaging in interactive exercises and games. A large number of assignments are availabe for practice.
Most major textbooks on "Mechancics of Materials" have a chapter on "Columns" that deals with bucking of compression members. Since Mechanics of Materials is a prerequisite to structural analysis, "columns" are often included in mechanics of materials courses. Inclusion of bucking of compression members would improve the quality of the contents.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The animations/movies included in the learning tool are well suited for classroom demonstration. The three-dimensional visualizations are excellent for visual learners. The calculations are interative and engage the learners. It can be used in review classes for Professional Exams (PE) for licensing as well.
The author has expended a great deal of effort to make engineering learning fun in an environment of virtual reality. MecMovies is potentially useful in helping students grasp the fundamentals of Mechanics of Materials with or without a traditional classroom.
One concern is that in the "Concepts" section the answers are immediately available to the user after the first trial. If the user had the opportunity to try again before seeing the correct answer, it might help him/her to be more persistent in finding the right answer. This could be done simply by adding a new "Correct Answer" button.
Other concerns are that 1) it is not clear whether this object is for self learning or classroom assistance in addition to instructor's lectures and 2) students may be "disoriented" of step-learning process if they start randomly clicking on the available buttons.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This learning tool is quite easy to use. The instructions and animations are presented in a familiar way in terms of menus and forward/backward buttons. The use of the internet has made this tool very effective in terms of accessibility to the users.
The crowded menu in the left is a bit overwelming - mixing main subjects with sub-menus. One cannot see, for example, all of the games available that are related to a given topic. Instead, the user must go page by page to see what other games are available. An improved version would have overlapped TABS for the main menu items along with pull-down sub-menus. I understand the limitiations of the software that was used to develop this instructional tool.
Other Issues and Comments:
One idea would be to add a counter at the top of the screen to record and add the "points", similar to conventional computer games. This might encourage the user. However, it might be difficult to implement. Overall, this is a great teaching and learning tool. Congratulations to the authors for the fine work done.