CHE 596: Online Chemical Engineering Bridging Course

This Online and Distance Education DELTA Grant project seeks to develop a new and well-organized self-paced online course (sequence of two courses, three credit hours each) for students who have a B.S. degree in a science and engineering field but lack the necessary chemical engineering background enabling them to succeed in the Master of Science in Chemical Engineering. This course will act as a “bridging course” and teach the core concepts in chemical engineering to students. The two courses, Core ChE Concepts: I and Core ChE Concepts: II, compose a two-semester online chemical engineering sequence offered in Fall and Spring semesters through the Engineering Online program at NC State.

Instructional Challenges

  • NC State’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) regularly accepts accomplished students to its graduate program who are from backgrounds other than chemical engineering, such as chemistry or biology. However, these students do not have the prerequisite knowledge of key chemical engineering topics such as transport phenomena and thermodynamics. There is a need to bridge this knowledge gap in order for every student to succeed in this field. Other students may have an undergraduate background in chemical engineering but enter graduate study after an industrial career and would like a refresher on complicated topics.
  • Up to this point, CBE has recommended these students take a distance education, two-course sequence “bridging course” from Michigan State University which covers these topics. CBE has polled students who have taken these courses and many had critical comments on both the antiquated delivery of the online content (e.g. recorded lectures over PowerPoint slides) and the quality of the instruction (e.g. some topics necessary for success in graduate school were not covered). This course will bring back the students to NC State University and draw students from other universities as well.
  • One of the major challenges was fitting the content of six courses into two courses without overloading students with too much content.
  • The team needed to identify a design strategy that would make it an online, self-paced course.
  • The team needed to find ways to incorporate active learning/student engagement and the use of learning technologies to make the course engaging. 
  • It was a brand new course and something very different from typical courses.


  • The course sequence leveraged modern knowledge of best practices in distance education course design such as Quality Matters principles, short (3-7 minute) lecture videos with solved examples, annotated homework, and conceptual testing using Moodle quizzes to enhance students’ understanding of key concepts and applications.
  • A custom navigation system was built for the Moodle course suite to help students to keep track of their progress and the topic they are studying. 
  • STEMbrite lightboard videos were used to explain critical concepts and problem solving strategies in Chemical Engineering.

Evaluation Findings

  • Students were found to maintain a high level of motivation (value, interest, self-efficacy) throughout the course.
  • Student perceptions of moodle were positive. Students found it was easy to find course materials and navigate the page as well as viewed instructions and directions as being clearly written.
  • Students’ feelings of “connectedness” with their peers and instructor were mixed, with students feeling less connected as the semester progressed. 
  • Student performance findings indicated that they met expectations for 2 of the 3 course learning objectives. 

Related Links

Core CHE Concepts: I and II

IPT Share Out

Videos (Course Information and Instructor Bios

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Paper

For more information about DELTA services, please contact LearnTech.