Investigating students' experiences and perceptions of a flipped and adaptive online engineering thermodynamics class

Wen Lan Hsieh, Adriana Signorini, Po Ya Abel Chuang, Wei Fan Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The trend of incorporating flipped learning to create active and effective learning environments has become increasingly popular in higher education in recent years. Existing research in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) suggests that students have a positive attitude towards flipped learning. This positive attitude strongly correlates to the perceptions of enhanced motivation, effective learning, and engagement. However, most of the studies on flipped learning in higher education only yield quantitative results. Students' perceptions of their experiences of online learning, in particular of their motivation in flexible and effective learning environments are rarely investigated qualitatively to provide in-depth reasoning. Recent online pedagogy has integrated adaptive learning tools to meet individual learning needs. This study focused on both flipped and adaptive learning strategies implemented in an online thermodynamics class. The flipped classroom freed up lecture time for interactive and effective online learning activities. This study aimed to interview, analyze, and explore underlying themes of college students' perceptions and experiences in an online Thermodynamics class using flipped and adaptive learning. A total of 14 out of 54 students volunteered for a semistructured interview. Students from the Students Assessing Teaching and Learning program were trained to conduct the individual interviews and transcribe the recording for analysis. Three researchers analyzed the data using thematic analysis. The results indicate that flipped learning enhances the students' learning experience and perceptions of learning effectiveness, ownership, and motivation. Nevertheless, applying adaptive learning with predesigned learning algorithms can cause student frustration. Through examination of the three psychological needs of the self-determination theory, adaptive learning can be perceived as a positive experience if a student's extrinsic motives align well with his needs and values. The qualitative findings of this study not only demonstrate the effectiveness of modern learning technologies in an engineering course, but also provide a foundation for future pedagogical design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-375
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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