Design Classroom Innovations

Creating Opportunities for Exploration by Modularizing a Three Credit Engineering Course

  • Rebecca O'Connell (Iowa State University)
  • Gloria Starns (Iowa State University)


We describe the processes of collaboration and coordination that is necessary to break a traditional three credit course into a series of three one credit courses that allow students to meet the same course requirement. Students taking the course will be able to choose from a set of one-credit options for the third course in the sequence, allowing pursue their interests while still learning a common set of skills.

ME 325, Mechanical Component Design, is a foundational course in mechanical engineering that is required in every accredited engineering program. While the course contains a common core that every mechanical engineering student should know, it continues on into specialized topics. Which of those specialized topics are taught in a particular section of ME 325 currently varies from section to section, depending on the instructor's areas of expertise. Breaking ME 325 into three one credit courses and adding a set of electives allows students to broaden their knowledge or focus on a specific area of interest. Single section offering might also be of interest to people in industry and others who simply need to review specific content areas.

Making this format work requires collaboration between all of the instructors teaching components of ME 325, and with administrators. It must be clear where the boundaries between the component sections of ME 325 are. Instructors must have a very clear understanding of what has already been covered and what still needs to be covered. The various instructors teaching this course must coordinate with each other to ensure that the learning objectives for the course as a whole are met and that the transition between sections goes smoothly. Creating elective sections will require ongoing collaboration between instructors and various campus administrators. This paper explores what processes of communication and coordination are necessary to make this course format work and how to implement these processes in a way that ensures that the course is sustainable and cohesive.

How to Cite:

O'Connell, R. & Starns, G., (2014) “Creating Opportunities for Exploration by Modularizing a Three Credit Engineering Course”, 2014 ASEE North Midwest Section Conference 2014(1), 1-6. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2014, Rebecca O'Connell and Gloria Starns

Download pdf
View PDF



Published on
17 Oct 2014
Peer Reviewed