Cours en ligne hydraulique
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Cours en ligne hydraulique

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Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech."An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning", Civil Engineering Learning Technology, (Ed.RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet forself-learningD. BOUSMARCivil Engineering Dept., Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, BelgiumF. DOCQInstitute for Higher Education and Multimedia (IPM), Université catholique de Louvain,Louvain-la-Neuve, BelgiumL. GILSON, C. MANFROID and Y. ZECHABSTRACTAn interactive open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet is presented. This course,currently under development, could be used for self-learning in an open and distant learningcontext. Relevant pedagogical aspects of such a course are highlighted : on one hand, theinteractive and multimedia capabilities of the Internet enables the development of interestingapplications such as a numerical laboratory or interactive exercises. On the other hand, thedistance between students and teacher in a self-learning context is an incentive to designcarefully the course by guidelines, explanations and illustrations in order to facilitate thelearning and by an adequate communication system between learners and teacher in order tokeep the human richness of studying.INTRODUCTIONSometimes the traditional classroom approach cannot satisfy the educational needs. This maybe the case in the developing countries, where there may be no ...

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Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 1 sur 8
An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for
self-learning
D. BOUSMAR
Civil Engineering Dept., Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
F. DOCQ
Institute for Higher Education and Multimedia (IPM), Université catholique de Louvain,
Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
L. GILSON, C. MANFROID and Y. ZECH
Civil Engineering Dept., Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
ABSTRACT
An interactive open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet is presented. This course,
currently under development, could be used for self-learning in an open and distant learning
context. Relevant pedagogical aspects of such a course are highlighted : on one hand, the
interactive and multimedia capabilities of the Internet enables the development of interesting
applications such as a numerical laboratory or interactive exercises. On the other hand, the
distance between students and teacher in a self-learning context is an incentive to design
carefully the course by guidelines, explanations and illustrations in order to facilitate the
learning and by an adequate communication system between learners and teacher in order to
keep the human richness of studying.
INTRODUCTION
Sometimes the traditional classroom approach cannot satisfy the educational needs. This may
be the case in the developing countries, where there may be no specialists to teach some
courses; or with students who are in a continued education context and who cannot be in a
classroom at the traditional hours. The recent developments of the Internet improve the
possibility of "open learning" (educational policy that aims to give the possibility of learning
in a flexible manner : at one's own time, at the place of one's choice, at one's own rhythm,
opening courses to all who wish to take it) and "distance education" (one way by which
learners who can't be at a particular place can study in a flexible manner) as defined by Collis
(1996) and Bates (1995), and help to bridge the gap between people. Besides the flexible and
communicational qualities of the Internet, the multimedia aspect of this tool enables the
building of more attractive learning support, including steady and animated figures, pictures,
movies and other interactive material.
The purpose of this paper is to present the experiment of a flexible educational tool to be
used by a self-learning student. To design such a tool it seems necessary to give the student
all the details generally omitted in the notes but explained by the lecturer, such as practical
tips for solving problems or examples. Moreover, it is also important to accompany the
student in his learning by giving him enough keys along the course such as scope and aims of
each lesson, and self-evaluation opportunities. Of course, this on-line course is not enough in
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 2 sur 8
itself, as it will not replace the teacher. If the student can learn some aspects of the course by
himself, the teacher can be more available for questions, discussions, either by the traditional
way if students and teacher are at the same place, or by the electronic way (e-mail, forums,
electronic conference, etc.).
To explore further those concepts and to experiment a first flexible course with the students,
a Web course is currently under development at the Civil Engineering Department of the
Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, with support of the Institute for Higher Education
and Multimedia (IPM) of the same university. The selected topic is steady flow in open-
channels. This topic is interesting for several reasons : it is short enough and does not use long
mathematical developments, which technically simplifies the writing of the course. In
addition, mastering all the presented concepts requires an accurate comprehension and some
skills development through many exercises, so that the actual efficiency of the course will be
easier to evaluate.
SPECIFIC PEDAGOGICAL APPROACH
A Web course can be used in two different ways : as a flexible learning tool ("open learning")
when communication with the teacher is easy, thanks to proximity at the same place, and as a
distance education tool when direct communication is difficult.
In both approaches, self-learning could lead to some insecurity for the student feeling isolated.
Indeed, as the student stands alone in front of his computer, he cannot directly refer to his
teacher or to his peers when he does not understand a part of the course or, simply, if he feels
a lack of progress. It is important to mitigate this problem through an adequate construction
of the Web course and by scheduling meeting opportunities (real or virtual) with the teacher.
A good design of the course should include clear exposure of the scope and objectives of each
lesson, in order to provide guidelines for the student through his learning. In this part of the
course, the text style corresponds to a teacher speaking to his student :
'In this lesson, you
will learn this and experiment that, so that you will be able to solve this kind of problem'
, in
order to partly restore the relationship broken by the distance.
A second point is to use the multimedia capabilities of the Internet for multiplying the
presentation of each concept, by texts, figures, pictures, animations, numerical applications,
etc. The student has then more opportunities to understand the concept and to assimilate it.
Moreover, when he has understood something, he can check his comprehension against
alternative presentation of the same concept. This will contribute to the feeling of satisfaction
of progressing through the lessons.
Lastly, many interactive exercises should be incorporated in the course so that the student can
apply and practice his new knowledge, and thus develop a deeper assimilation. Those
exercises should help him to evaluate himself but also prevent him from going further in the
lessons with insufficient mastery of the previous material. Several kinds of exercises can be
proposed : the simplest are theoretical questionnaires, evaluating the memorisation of the
concepts, from a general point of view to a detailed one. Also classical numerical exercises can
be proposed, with on-line help and solution check. A last kind of exercises can be developed,
in which the student has to identify the solving steps for a given problem, without explicit
calculation. In such exercises, the student can quickly explore a large amount of problems that
he would not address if he had to go into the computational details. This should compensate
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 3 sur 8
the absence of experience transmission from the practitioner to the student which usually
takes place in the classroom.
The present experiment concerns mainly an open learning context, at least during
development and testing phases. Traditional ways of meeting between students and their
teacher are still available, so that virtual communication tools are not included at this stage.
COURSE DESCRIPTION
The topic selected for the course under development in the Université catholique de Louvain
is the steady flow in open-channel. This is a part of the basic course in hydraulics for the
bachelor degree in civil engineering and it constitutes a pre-requisite for river engineering and
for irrigation study. Having a large potential audience, this topic was also interesting from a
technical point of view as it is quite short (around 20 hours of teaching and tutorials in the
existing traditional lecture) and does not require long mathematical developments that are still
difficult to edit in HTML format. Lastly, the concepts to be taught are complex enough and
require skill development by the student (e.g. for dealing with the selection of upstream and
downstream boundary conditions), so that a valuable test of the Web course will be possible.
In a first stage, the existing lecture notes were synthesised and translated in HTML format
(mainly in French, up to now), with the addition of some interactive Java applets
(Muyldermans, 1997; Bousmar et al., 1999). Work is now going on to include applications,
theoretical questionnaires and exercises, but also to revise the presentation of objectives in the
lessons (Gilson and Manfroid, 1999). A first testing phase has been carried out in March
1999 by replacing one of the lessons commonly given to the students by its Web equivalent
(see below). A larger experiment will cover the whole course, starting in February 2000.
The course is divided in 21 lessons. The duration of each of them should vary from 1 to
3 hours, depending on the lesson topic and on the student skills, so that a course unit can be
easily studied in one work session. Each lesson includes a short presentation of the
objectives, a theoretical summary of the subject (with all the important formulae), a reference
to the lecture notes (that will be available for downloading in Acrobat PDF format) and to
classical text books, several illustrations and applications, theoretical questions and exercises,
according to the lesson topic. The course is made complete with a glossary of terms and
equations, and with synthesis exercises. A discussion forum and a frequently asked questions
list will be added later but are not yet required as the public during the testing phase are the
students of the UCL who can refer directly to their lecturers.
EXAMPLES OF COURSE COMPONENTS
In this section, several components of the course are presented in order to illustrate the
concepts developed above. All are part of lesson 17 of the course, describing the classical
problem of the flow between an underflow gate and a reservoir.
The core of each lesson, just after presentation of the objectives, is the theoretical summary.
This summary contains the main formulae, figures and tables of the lesson, together with
some short comments. The purpose is to use it more as a quick reference than as a studying
support, since reading on a computer screen can be inconvenient. A more comfortable medium
for study are the complete lecture notes, offered for downloading and printing, and references
to classical textbooks. Here, the summary is mainly used as a reference for the on-line helps
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 4 sur 8
of the exercises and for the glossary, through adequate hypertext links. An example of such a
summary has already been described elsewhere (Bousmar et al., 1998).
A self-evaluation of the understanding of the theoretical background can be performed by the
student through a theoretical interactive questionnaire. About ten questions are proposed in
each lesson with multiple choice solutions (Figure 1) : clicking the "check" button, the student
gets an on-line correction of his answer; he can also click the help button in order to get some
elements to find the solution or a link to the related part of the theoretical summary; last but
not least, a score button enables him to get an evaluation of his knowledge level. The
questions are proposed with an increasing difficulty level, ranging from the simple restitution
of the knowledge to more elaborate reasoning.
Another kind of interactive feature, unavailable in classical books, are numerical simulation
tools written as Java applets. Figure 2 shows the applet of lesson 17, that computes and
draws the water profile between a gate and a reservoir. Through a dialogue box, the user can
change all the parameters values, e.g. water levels, opening of the gate, etc. The applet then
instantaneously redraws the water profile so that the student can use it as a numerical
laboratory to visualise and feel the parameters influence in order to improve his
comprehension of the flow described in the lesson. Several parameter sets are proposed for
testing and are commented in order to highlight the major features of the flow (for example :
the influence of the discharge or of the downstream level on the hydraulic jump location; the
transition between a common jump and a submerged one; etc.). Lastly, this applet will be
used at several places as an illustration of a particular exercise solution.
Figure 1 : Theoretical interactive question
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 5 sur 8
Figure 2 : Java applet for the computing of the water profile between a gate and a reservoir
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 6 sur 8
Figure 3 : Numerical solution of a typical problem
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the numerical values to be computed and some conclusion elements are left in blank. The user
is invited to fill them up, so that he does not limit himself to a quick reading of the solution
but can already assimilate part of it. The purpose of such illustrations is to show the student
how to apply the theory to a practical application and to introduce the exercises.
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 7 sur 8
Classical numerical exercises are of course proposed, with on-line help, solution check and
visualisation through the Java applet. A random data set generator is also proposed in order
to provide drill material for the student. More unusual are the exercises centred on the
understanding of the solution procedure that the student is invited to do prior to the
numerical exercises. In these exercises (Figure 4), several possible solution steps are proposed
for the given problem and the user has to rank them in the right order. Each time a correct step
is identified, the figure is automatically redrawn with the corresponding step of the solution
so that the student gets the qualitative result and does not need to compute it. If the proposed
step is not a correct one, the corresponding label appears in red. The on-line corrector allows
to follow different solving paths when it is possible. Solving those exercises, the student can
develop his comprehension and his experience through a larger amount of problems than if he
had to do all the computations. So he is able to pay attention to the fundamental solution
principles.
Figure 4 : Exercise on the identification of the solution steps
FIRST EVALUATION OF THE COURSE
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gate and a reservoir has been selected, since this lesson includes representative instances of
most of the components (Java applets, many exercises, etc.) and is thus suitable to test all of
them. During this first test, carried out in March 1999, 20 students studied the whole lesson.
Bousmar, Docq, Gilson, Manfroid, & Zech.
"An open-channel hydraulics course on the Internet for self-learning",
Civil Engineering Learning Technology
, (Ed.
RM Lloyd et CJ Moore), Thomas Telford, London, 1999, pp 167-173
www.ipm.ucl.ac.be
Page 8 sur 8
The evaluation then concerned both their understanding of the lesson, through a short exercise
resolution, and their perception of the Web course : was the understanding made easier or
worse than with the classical course, how much time did they spend on the lesson, did they
try all the exercises, did they use the on-line helps, was the course motivating, etc. Results of
this evaluation will be presented during the symposium.
Improved by the comments from this first evaluation, the course redaction will then be
completed and a second test should take place during the next academic year, with the whole
course. Half the students of the class will be asked to study through the Internet media, while
the others will follow the classical lectures in order to get a valuable comparison.
CONCLUSIONS
The interactive Web course on open-channel hydraulics is currently developed using a
specific pedagogical approach for self-learning. If the Internet offers many possibilities to
disseminate knowledge, a particular attention has to be devoted to the educational efficiency
of such attempts : in this experiment, the design of the course attempts to accompany the
learner by providing him guidelines, multiple illustrations of the concepts and self-evaluation
opportunities.
A good quality Web course is laborious to develop but can offer an interesting alternative to
traditional course, or at least improve it in an open learning context, by making available, for
example, new kinds of exercises or a numerical laboratory that could be employed in parallel
to the usual lectures. Anyway, the teacher's technical and pedagogical skills will always be
required, both for direct or virtual contacts, and in the redaction of a good quality course.
REFERENCES
The described course is currently available at the URL :
http://www.gc.ucl.ac.be/hydr/enseignement/didacti/home.html (in French)
http://www.gc.ucl.ac.be/hydr/enseignement/didacti/home-en.html (partial translation in
English)
Bates, A.W., 1995,
Technology, open learning and distance education
, Routledge, London.
Bousmar, D., Muyldermans, D. and Zech, Y., 1998, "An interactive open channel hydraulics
course on the Internet",
Proc. Hydroinformatics'98
(Eds. V. Babovic and L.C. Larsen),
Balkema, Rotterdam
Collis, B., 1996,
Tele-learning in a digital world, the future of distance learning
, International
Thomson Computer Press, London.
Gilson, L. and Manfroid, C., 1999, "Télédidacticiel Web sur l'écoulement à surface libre",
Final study work
, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium (in preparation)
Muyldermans, D., 1997, "Télédidacticiel Web sur l'écoulement à surface libre",
Final study
work
, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
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