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The recent COVID-19 health crisis caused universities worldwide to move suddenly to an online format during the middle of the spring semester. This change in class format provides a unique opportunity to study the effect of this abrupt shift to online learning on student performance. In order to develop a baseline, the performance of 79 students in two sections of a hybrid Mechanics of Materials course during the face-to-face portion in the spring of 2020 was compared to the past performance of 461 students in 13 sections taught by the same instructor in a similar fashion. Using this comparison as a reference, the effect on student performance after the course transitioned to a fully-online format then was analyzed. In previous face-to-face hybrid sections, the Pearson correlation coefficients between the end-of-semester grade point and the averages for exams given during the first and second halves of the semester were 0.831 and 0.898, respectively. By comparison, the spring 2020 sections had Pearson correlation coefficients for the first and second halves of the semester of 0.825 and 0.932, respectively. This result indicates that the online exams given during the second half of the semester correlated very well with the end-of-semester grades. Some general observations also can be made about the students’ ability to adapt to online learning. Not surprisingly, high-performing students generally adapted more rapidly to the online environment and even improved their scores as a result of the open resources that were available in the 50-minute online exams. On the other hand, students who were performing marginally struggled to adapt to the online format, which was less structured than the original format.






South Dakota State University


© American Society for Engineering Education, 2020. Posted with permission.