Design-Based Research: Students Seeking Co-op in Refined Educational Model

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Conference Proceeding

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This research paper continues a longitudinal implementation of a design-based research (DBR) study/implementation for a new co-op centric educational model. This is a benchmarking study by the university program.

The new model is an adaptation of two recently recognized (by a 2018 MIT report) emerging world-leading engineering educational models, Charles Sturt University (Australia) and Iron Range Engineering (Minnesota). Adapted from Charles Sturt is the co-op model whereby students spend an initial on-campus period and then combine co-op work placements and on-line learning all the way to degree completion. Adapted from Iron Range are the curricular strategies that empower a graduate with a balanced technical, professional, and design set of capabilities.

More specifically, in this new model, students complete their lower-division pre-engineering requirements at a community college anywhere in the U.S., then transfer into the model for a one-semester intensive on-ground experience where they acquire the self-directed and professional skills needed to thrive in a co-op placement. Upon completion of this semester, students enter 24 months of co-op placement/on-line learning, returning to the institution after 12 months and 24 months for one-week examination periods.

In design-based research, two iterative cycles take place simultaneously and interface to provide knowledge to one another. One cycle is the design of a new program (or similar implementation), the other cycle is the research study. The needs of the design cycle result in a research question. The research cycle includes literature review, data acquisition, analysis, evaluation, and findings. Out of the findings come recommendations for continuous improvement in the program design. DBR is a form of action research, wherein the researchers are integral in the program design phases.

This longitudinal study began in 2017 at the beginning of the new program's ideation and continued throughout the development of the program. The program began in August 2019 with the first group of 20 students attending the engineering development phase. Our research tracked their co-op placement experience to understand key success factors. In August 2020, the second group of 33 students started the engineering development phase. For this paper, the research question will again focus on the process taken by students and the program for the acquisition of the first co-op employment placement. In other words, "How do XXXX program student engineers acquire their first co-op placement?". This second iteration will look to identify benefits from changes made to the process following our initial results.

Data will come from the program curriculum regarding how students were prepared for the job-search process and what scaffolding was provided, from the specifics of the searches (how many positions did each student apply for, how many interviews, how many offers, average pay, etc.), as well from interviews of the students regarding their experiences.

The findings of the research will feed back into the program for continued improvement with future cohorts of students.


Integrated Engineering

Publication Title

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference