The project is 1) developing an open source, virtual, online tensile testing laboratory simulation; 2) conducting research to compare the costs and learning outcomes for using on-site, hands-on tensile testing equipment versus an online simulation; 3) creating close industry ties through blended learning opportunities for students; and 4) disseminating the simulation via faculty development. The project is testing the hypothesis that online learning improves outcomes and simultaneously reduces instructional costs. It is bridging a gap between existing tensile testing software products that are either too simple or too complex. The project is using a comprehensive assessment of student learning, along with a quasi-experimental research design, to determine the impact of the simulator on students and their instructors compared to traditional learning without the simulator.
Although the proof of concept in the project pertains to a common engineering learning activity, the research is applicable to other engineering areas and other disciplines. The project includes activities that can be easily adopted by other institutions with little cost. The open-source tool being developed will be disseminated to undergraduate and high school faculty members who teach strength of materials courses, thus increasing the likelihood of adoption. Access to a virtual lab will allow groups with limited resources to attain desired learning outcomes without large capital investments for tensile strength testing equipment.