Digital learning refers to the use of technology platforms to facilitate one's engagement in concepts and activities during the learning process. Hands-on learning, on the other hand, relates to the physical handling of objects during the learning process. A knowledge gap that exists in the engineering education domain relates to a lack of understanding in the affordances these two curriculum delivery means present in preparing the next generation of engineering students for the rapidly evolving global work environment. Across all educational levels, there is a trend towards increasing digital experiences. Hands-on learning in engineering classes brings another important dimension, a tangible one, to student learning. While digital representation of objects (such as in computer aided design) has become more common in the last decade, the efficiency difference between digital and hands-on design learning in students' ability to subsequently design digital objects is still not explicit. Given today's knowledge society with an overabundance of information, there are demands to learn more in less time. In this paper, efficiency is measured by the time it takes for students to complete a given task. The hypothesis tested in this work is that there exists a statistically significant difference in time to complete the digital design of an object by two student groups. In addition, this work identifies the significant factors impacting this efficiency (e.g., engagement time, prior digital skills, prior hands-on skills and task performance). Results from this study provide constructive suggestions for efficient use of digital and hands-on approaches to teaching engineering design.
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