2020 Verrett

Project Title Adopting Interactive learning resources for an introductory chemical engineering design course to reduce course material costs and enhance student learning.
Principal Investigator Jonathan Verrett
Faculty Science
Funding Year 2019/20
Project Summary This project seeks to integrate interactive open educational resources (OER) to support learning within and outside class in Chemical & Biological Engineering (CHBE) 220 – Founding Principles in Chemical and Biological Engineering I. The project will accomplish this by adapting relevant existing open educational resources (OER) to replace paid textbooks currently used in the course. The platform that will be used to host materials will be Jupyter notebooks, which is a type of computational notebook. Computational notebooks are documents that can be read similarly to a textbook but can also run computer code. These notebooks can include text, equations, images, hyperlinks and code. They generally use open-source computing languages such as Python or R. Jupyter notebooks is itself open-source, meaning anyone can freely use and modify it. An example of a Jupyter notebook from an engineering course incorporating text, images, equations and code can be viewed at the following link: https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/jckantor/CBE20255/blob/master/notebooks/01.01-Units- and-Engineering-Calculations.ipynb

Jupyter notebooks offer a few distinct advantages over other forms of publishing OER. They can be run online or locally on a computer using open-source Python software. UBC students have free access to syzygy.ubc.ca which is run in collaboration with Compute Canada. Students can login to this platform using their CWL and can run code such as Jupyter notebooks through this interface. This means they don’t need to install any software locally to access the resources if they wish. Jupyter notebooks can be easily shared and updated using open online repositories such as GitHub. This allows students to regularly update their notebook with one click, as well as report and correct errors in notebooks. Students can also manipulate and change their copy of the material, by writing notes, changing code, or creating their own derivative notebooks.

The advantages noted above are especially useful when teaching a course focusing on engineering design, where problems tend to be very complex and generally require information from a number of sources. CHBE 220 introduces chemical engineering design and has students practice design through a course-long design project. This is a mandatory course in CHBE degree programs impacting roughly 120 students per year. Students work in teams of four to design and analyze various components of a chemical process. Process topics studied in the past include carbon capture from power plant emissions and ammonia production for use in fertilizers, to name a few. The use of Jupyter notebooks will aid in organizing a variety of resources to support student design projects through the use of course materials. Currently these materials are found in a variety of textbooks, some of which students must purchase. This project will ensure all students have free access to all course resources by replacing paid textbooks.

The development of Jupyter notebooks will further the use of OER in CHBE 220. The course currently uses the open online homework system WeBWorK as part of the individual assignments given to students. This homework system is hosted by UBC and available to students free of charge.
Grant type OER Implementation
Funded Amount $19,356