First Year Engineering Student Advice for Succeeding in Online Courses

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Engineering Fundamentals


This complete research paper explores first year engineering (FYE) students’ advice for attaining success in online learning. In the spring semester of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic thrust higher education students from their traditional classroom settings into online learning platforms. Students typically seek online learning opportunities due to the flexibility and convenience of the format, allowing balance between work and family life with school responsibilities. This emergency shift to online courses presented a unique opportunity to gain insight in the attitudes of unwilling online learners and identifies these students as ample sources of advice for future online learners.

At the conclusion of the spring 2020 semester, 233 first-year engineering students from a public technical university were asked to provide advice for incoming engineering students completing courses in the online environment. Advice from 67 student teams was collected through an in-class assignment. Student responses were anonymized and coded using analytic induction and convergent coding methods within a grounded theory framework. An initial codebook was developed using codes from research previously conducted by the authors, with additional codes being added as a consensus in response coding was reached amongst researchers.

Results indicated that time management was the top concern for online students, followed by readiness to learn online, which included managing distractions to online learning and learning in dedicated spaces. Self-care also emerged as a more significant concern for online first year engineering students than in person first year engineering students, including sleep hygiene, study/screen breaks, staying hydrated, getting dressed and exercising, all relevant issues for those working and learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these results, we recommend that instructors of introductory online courses integrate materials about time management, distraction management, and self-care into their classes.

Publication Title

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access