Faculty Advisor

Clark, William M.


This project is the design and production of a Computer Aided Learning (CAL) CD for the chemical engineering course Unit Operations Laboratory, CM 4401. Research was done on the history of CAL in education and business along with the disadvantages and advantages of CAL compared to conventional teaching methods. Also the different learning styles of students were evaluated as well as how to generate the best retention and to stimulate learning by students. Unit Operations Laboratory is a fundamental class combining all of the previous course work of the chemical engineering curriculum into hands-on lab experience. Review and new material are sometimes required prior to conducting the lab. Because this class does not have a lecture, students are required to learn this material independently. Videos are placed on reserve in the Gordon Library and are critical in the student's comprehension of the labs. These videos are from 1981, are in black and white, and difficult to hear. They are lengthy and a student must watch them 2 or 3 times before getting a solid understanding of the material presented. The goal of this project was to replace those videos with a more effective educational medium. CAL is an educational medium by which instructional content or activities are delivered to a student via computer. CAL is not a "new idea". A noted psychologist, B.F. Skinner, first developed CAL through the concept of operant learning. CAL is used to enhance the student's learning through the use of multimedia, which is any combination of text, graphics, animation, sound, video or external links. When designing this program we included stimulus for each of four learning styles noted by Solomon's inventory of learning: processing, perception, input and understanding. An important part of the effectiveness of this program was the reinforcement of subject materials through interactive questions. The program we used to create this CD was Asymetrix Toolbook II Instructor version 6.0. The heart of our project was contained in the programming and design of the CD. Functions and catalogs built into Instructor aided in the development of the interactive program. Adobe Photoshop and Asymetrix Web3D were used to create and enhance graphics and animations, and video clips were rendered through video capture. The program was created, by breaking down the creative process. Each lab was created by one team member, designated the knowledge expert. All three project members were the designers, authors and special effects. The project advisor and junior year chemical engineering students were evaluators. The design and production was focused on tutorial sections and questions and answers. We decided to distribute it via CD-ROM so that the students can access the program from anywhere. CAL is the teaching medium because more students are becoming computer-oriented. Also CAL contains much more stimulation to the students. CAL forces the student to remain focused on the topic and they can learn at their own pace. The student can take as much time on any subject without holding up an entire class. This program is not intended to replace the teacher but instead to aid the student in the learning process, making sure the student retains as much as possible. It is our recommendation that all the videos on reserve for Unit Operation be converted to CAL. From our limited feedback we conclude that this CD program will be nothing but beneficial to the students. We advise that in the future there be more audio added to the program. Also we suggest that a survey be administered at the end of Unit Operations I recording the students' response.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Date Accepted



Chemical Engineering

Project Type

Major Qualifying Project


Restricted-WPI community only

Advisor Department

Chemical Engineering