This is a collection of computer-based learning software for materials science and engineering. Much of it is available online and free, although there are also CD-ROMs available for purchase. This review includes ONLY the free online resources. Most of it is geared towards undergraduates in science, technology, and engineering, but there are modules for middle-school and high school. There are a variety of modules on topics including the fundamentals of materials properties (kinetics and thermodynamics of solidification), manufacture and properties of specific materials (steel, aluminum), and techniques for characterizing materials (X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy). Modules include instruction, interactive simulations and experiments, quizzes and self-tests. The quality is superb.
Type of Material:
A collection of tutorials each of which includes instruction, simulations, and interactive quizzes with immediate feedback.
Self-guided study to augment and enhance any course in materials science or engineering. Some units would also be useful to augment and enhance the study of particular topics in other chemistry and physics courses. Instructor might reproduce case studies in a classroom quiz or exam situation to verify that students have worked through material.
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Identify Major Learning Goals:
Specific learning goals depend on the module. Focusing on the free modules for university-level instruction . . .
Students who complete steeluniversity.org and steelMATTER should be able to (1) identify materials properties that are critical to the performance of steel parts in specific applications such as car doors, (2) describe the atomic, microscopic, and macroscopic structural features of steel that give these properties, and (3) describe the processing steps that lead to these particular structural features.
Students who complete aluMATTER should be able to: (1) Define key properties used in engineering design and define how they are measured. (2) Use property charts to compare and contrast the suitability of aluminum alloys and other materials for particular applications. (3) Discuss the range of surface properties exhibited by aluminum alloys and how they are affected by processing. (4) Discuss the processing steps for strengthening aluminum alloys and relate them to changes in structure at the atomic,
microscopic, and macroscopic levels.
Target Student Population:
Each module identifies its target population clearly. There are modules targeted at undergraduates in a first course in materials science and engineering (aluMATTER, steelMATTER, steeluniversity.org), modules targeted at advanced undergraduates and graduate students (TEM, X-ray diffraction), and modules targeted at middle and high-school students (Brownian motion, capacitance, chemical reaction, electrolysis, . . . )
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Ability to use web, familiarity with computers, some background knowledge of preliminary concepts in chemistry and physics.
The module does an outstanding job at clarifying the fundamental concepts through appropriate animation and simulation. Each topic is covered
thoroughly and in depth.
The material can get quite overwhelming if not supplemented with face-to-face interaction or online interaction with faculty.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The design of each module is based on sound pedagogy. Each module includes a statement of the learning goals, information and activities to support those learning goals, and interactive self-testing opportunities with immediate feedback. Of particular note is that fact that many of the answers are not simply right or wrong; just as in the real engineering world, sometimes there is more than one good answer, but some answers are better than others. The modules pose questions like this and discuss the relative merits of the student's responses.
The usefulness of this module would increase dramatically if more quiz-type questions are included in every section.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The storyboarding means that all modules have a similar feel, although each is unique. The whole thing feels polished and professional. I have found no dead links.
Occasionally, I found navigation a little confusing. I sort of got "lost inside a module". This was rare, though.
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