One challenge for engineering educators is to design appropriate educational curricula that address both students’ needs and educators’ expectations. It is therefore important for the engineering education community to think about how to include students and faculty into the assignment design process. In this paper we discuss our use of user-centered design (UCD) principles, including early focus on users, empirical measurements, and iteration design, to design course-based portfolio (CBP) assignments for mechanical engineering students. To support the assignment design decisions, we collected early information about mechanical engineering students’ learning needs and educators’ expectations. Based on the design considerations that we identified for portfolio design, the CBP assignment is designed to ask students build a persuasive document and identify the connections between the course and mechanical engineering discipline. We measured our design by piloting the assignment with students and getting feedback from faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department; this feedback reflects the effectiveness of the CBP and leads to design iterations and tradeoffs. We also identified several students’ learning opportunities and formed these opportunities into hypotheses to evaluate the impacts of course-based portfolios on students learning in the next formal study. This research demonstrates a successful practice of using user-centered design principles to design a course-based portfolio assignment for mechanical engineering students.

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