The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) awarded its annual Outstanding Teaching Award to Professor Paul Nissenson from the mechanical engineering department.
Chosen from among a national pool of nominees, Nissenson was selected for his dedication to teaching and leveraging technology to significantly improve not only his students’ outcomes but also students around the world.
“This award was the culmination of years of constantly experimenting with technology in order to help students at Cal Poly Pomona and around the world,” Nissenson said.
Nissenson deploys unique class structures that make the best of both in-person and virtual teaching formats. He implemented a flipped classroom approach in his fluid mechanics and introductory programming course. The flipped approach had students learning new material via video tutorials prior to in-person lectures. The primary advantage of this was freeing up in-person class time for discussion, demonstrations and active learning exercises. The approach in short: learn the theory online and put it into practice in class.
The improvements to classroom performance was significant — the fluid mechanics course saw its dropped/fail/withdraw rates plummet from 34 percent to 11 percent. Also, student surveys indicated increased satisfaction with the course. This structure lowered the overall cost of the course by replacing physical textbooks with Nissenson’s video tutorials and a less expensive online textbook from the publisher. For the programming course, textbooks were completely eliminated, and its costs were replaced with his free videos on YouTube.
Nissenson has also spent significant time democratizing engineering education access. He took a lead role in launching ME Online, a free educational resource containing more than 600 videos by Cal Poly Pomona engineering faculty, with nearly a quarter made by Nissenson. A vast library of full course lectures and short video tutorials, the content lives on the CPPMechEngTutorials YouTube channel. The channel has 105,000 subscribers, over 10 million video views and over 1 million hours of viewing time from around the world.
Nissenson also launched Cal Poly Pomona’s first massive open online course (MOOC) in 2014, in which 13,000 people from around the world enrolled in his course for free to learn Excel VBA. Further, tens of thousands enrolled in a self-paced version of the course.
“Taking a step back and reflecting upon how I got to this moment, it was only possible because Cal Poly Pomona is a place that truly values teaching,” Nissenson said. “I’m indebted to my colleagues and collaborators who supported my efforts along the way.”