Last Updated: April 2nd, 2020
- 1 Introduction
2 Objectives and Outcomes
- 2.1 Program Educational Objectives
- 2.2 Student Outcomes
- 2.3 Course Learning Objectives
- 2.4 Program Metrics
- 2.5 Theoretical Framework
- 3 Next Steps
Welcome! No matter your age, your background, or your experience level, you are about to embark on an exciting journey into the future of STEM education! This is not a "typical online program" - this is, first and foremost, a thriving and supportive community built on the firm foundation of a passion for learning and a belief that it is our duty to support others in their own personal and professional development. Whatever goals you might have for yourself, we are here to help you achieve them and continue to reach beyond them!
The backbone of this program is our hands-on course content. The best way to learn is by doing, and the courses we offer are designed to help you get started with just that. Expect an approximately 40%:60% split between theoretical background and active, practical exercises in each lesson. In each course, you'll find recommendations on equipment and materials that will be useful for both completing the exercises within the course and completing your own projects outside of it.
Challenges are used to provide you with opportunities to apply the knowledge you learn within our courses to practical applications. By sharing your results with the community, you can get feedback on your results that will help you grow. This is a valuable opportunity that is not often available in a formal educational environment; we hope you will take advantage of it!
Lastly, if you have any questions you need help with, whether they are related to our courses, a challenge, or an outside project or class you are engaged in, you can stop by one of our live-stream videos and ask Dr. Foland for assistance. As the founder of this organization, the author and architect of the majority of this program, and a lifelong engineer and educator, he is always happy to help in any way that he can!
How to Approach This Program
First of all, if you are just getting started, you are in the right place! We highly recommend reading through the rest of this document before proceeding so that you understand the scope and expectations of this program. This program takes time, commitment, and hard work to excel, but if you are willing to make it a priority, the results will speak for themselves. There are many styles of learning, and, as such, no single "right" way to approach this program. We do, however, have some recommendations to help you get the most out of your time with us:
Treat this program like you would treat a university-level course - that means taking notes, asking questions, and keeping a consistent schedule. It may be tempting, especially for our younger students who are not accustomed to taking notes in school, to think that they won't need to take notes here either, but that simply isn't the case. Handwritten or digital notes are fine - whatever works best for you - but having a record of what you have learned and accomplished is critical for long-term success. Many of the early students in our program are now studying at university, still referencing notes they took in our courses years prior. Don't skip taking notes and then come to regret it later!
Questions are welcomed, encouraged, and an essential part of the learning process. Unlike most online programs, we strive to have as much, if not more, communication and direct support for our students as you would find in an in-person classroom environment. Dr. Foland is directly accessible via our Discord community most days, and is always happy to answer questions either there or during live-stream sessions - particularly Office Hours streams, which are "anything goes" and often good opportunities to tackle the most challenging questions, work out problems on a virtual whiteboard, and even replicate and work through engineering challenges together. We also have an exceptionally supportive online community that can and will often help out as well - a service we hope you will pay forward as well, by the way, if you see an opportunity to assist a fellow community member in the future.
Lastly, do your best to stay on top of your coursework with TSoG. This is ultimately an advanced supplementary educational program, and your formal school work should always take priority if there is a conflict, but keeping a regular schedule will make your work with us both more manageable and more rewarding. There are many strategies for establishing and maintaining consistency, but one of the most effective ones is to work with partners with similar goals and interests. If you have local friends you can meet with weekly or bi-weekly to work together as a team, that would be ideal, but you can also find teammates online and meet virtually to discuss your progress and goals. It is very tempting for many of us to want to work alone, but science and engineering are ultimately collaborative endeavors! Some coursework and challenges can only be completed by working with partners, so step outside of your comfort zone, bring friends into our community or make new friends within our community, and start collaborating sooner, rather than later!
The age / skill levels of The Shoulders of Giants are intended to be used as loose guidelines - not hard and fast rules. We recognize that learners of all ages will discover our courses at different times in their lives, and we certainly do not want anyone to avoid taking part in some of that content because they think they are too old for it or that it is somehow "beneath them".
Instead, view the following program levels as guidelines for lesson / course expectations, and use them to help you find a place to start - nothing more.
While the majority of our program is intended for students 13 years of age and older, we still produce a large amount of content that is suitable for younger audiences under our Aristarchus category. You can find this content on the Lessons for Kids landing page. While the hands-on activities included in this category are aimed at this younger audience, we always take a "something for everyone" approach to all our lessons. With that in mind, we hope that parents will enjoy participating in these activities as much as their children will, and we strive to include additional talking points around advanced concepts whenever possible so that everyone gets something worthwhile out of the experience.
Even if you aren't a parent, you might still consider taking a look through the category for project ideas and fun activities; who doesn't enjoy building things like rockets and motors, after all!
The Copernicus level marks the official beginning of our Mentorship Program. Intended for students 13+, content marked as Copernicus focuses on building a foundation in the critical mathematical, scientific, engineering, and programming skills needed to succeed at more challenging levels. Students studying at this level are expected to have a good grasp on mathematics up to approximately Algebra I, but no additional prior knowledge is assumed.
This level is a great place to start if you are looking to explore a new STEM field for the first time, and is recommended to all late middle- or early high-school students joining our program. We take a very unique approach to education at this level, with an emphasis on getting exposure to advanced mathematical concepts such as statistics, linear algebra, and calculus as early as possible; for those a bit rusty on those topics, this is also a great place to brush up on those skills before moving forward!
The Kepler level is, in many ways, the core to our Mentorship Program. This level provides our students with broad exposure to a wide variety of science and engineering disciplines as they work to develop proficiency with skills, tools, and problem solving techniques that will aid them in pursuit of future STEM studies. You can think of this category as a collection of the "essentials" we hope every student who takes part in our program will arm themselves with, regardless of what career path they end up choosing to pursue later on.
We do not recommend starting at this program level unless you are already familiar with all of the mathematical skills covered within our Copernicus courses. If you are unsure, we are happy to help you self-assess and find the right starting place for you! Just let us know if you need this kind of assistance once you join our Discord community.
This is where we hope all of our students eventually end up. Students studying at our Newton level are well on their way to a cross-disciplinary problem-solving proficiency that will serve them well no matter what career they pursue - STEM or otherwise.
Although we ideally hope that students who have joined our program at an early age make it to this category before they graduate high school, the material presented in this category is very much university-level, and relies upon the strong foundation established in the previous two levels of our program. We highly recommend anyone joining this program (at any age) start by reviewing the course content at the Copernicus and Kepler levels before considering tackling Newton coursework.
Objectives and Outcomes
At The Shoulders of Giants, we take the quality and effectiveness of our program extremely seriously. Even though this is a supplementary educational program, we structure, analyze, and assess our students, courses, and program as a whole to the same rigorous standards we would use if this curriculum were applied within a formal educational environment. The following sections outline the objectives and outcomes that we monitor for the continuous improvement of our Mentorship Program (Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton levels). Although the specific process is our own, it is based on successful assessment models such as the ABET Criteria 1 commonly used to accredit university engineering programs in the United States.
Program Educational Objectives
Program Educational Objectives (PEOs) serve as an answer to the question: "What do we expect our students to gain from taking part in this program?" PEOs should be stated as a set of concrete, quantifiable qualities we hope to see students obtain or embody as a result of being a part of this program.
Student Outcomes (SOs) serve as an answer to the question: "What do our students need to gain from this program in order to obtain the Program Educational Objectives?" Each student outcome defines a key skill or area of growth that students will be assessed on for each course they complete.
Because our Mentorship Program serves a wide range of student development, our Student Outcomes are subdivided into specific expectations for the Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton levels of study. The 6 SOs of the TSoG Mentorship Program are listed below; detailed information specific to each program level is provided on the linked SO pages.
All students enrolled in Mentorship Program courses will be assessed on the following Student Outcomes (SOs):
- Problem Solving
- Engineering and Experimental Design
- Use of Software, Tools, and Techniques
- Professional Ethics
Specific expectations for each SO are defined separately for the Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton levels. Specific subject matter for each SO assessment is defined at the course level via a corresponding Course Learning Objectives (CLO).
Course Learning Objectives
The Student Outcomes serve as a strong basis for aggregating and comparing student performance between courses, but need to be further refined and interpreted on a course-by-course basis in the form of Course Learning Objectives (CLOs). A well-written CLO serves as an answer to the question "How should this Student Outcome be interpreted in the context of this course?" For example, "Acquire new knowledge using appropriate resources and learning strategies and use that knowledge alongside principles of engineering, science, and mathematics to solve practical, real-world problems and analyze their solutions." (Kepler SO(a)) might be interpreted to refer to identifying necessary material properties and solving structural analysis problems in a mechanics / mechanical engineering course, referencing SDSs and solving stoichiometry problems in a chemistry / chemical engineering course, or accessing component datasheets and solving circuit analysis problems in an electricity / electrical engineering course.
Course Learning Objectives are defined and clearly stated for each course at the Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton levels. This serves as a valuable preview of the course expectations, as students can expect to be assessed in some way on all of the CLOs upon completion of a course. Please make a note of them and use them to assist you in your studies!
We regularly assess our Mentorship Program students not only so that we can provide them with feedback on their progress in the program, but also to help us improve the quality and increase the impact of the program itself. We aggregate and evaluate results related to the CLOs, SOs, and PEOs in the continuous improvement cycle outlined below.
When students complete a course within our Mentorship Program, assessment data related to the CLOs of that course are aggregated and compared to the corresponding SOs from other established courses at the same program level. If any courses show surprising or unexpected results, that data is used to drive improvement of that course. The easiest way to understand this type of outcome aggregation is by example: If one student is struggling in a particular CLO, it is likely due to their own lack of understanding and can be addressed on a case-by-case basis. If many students are struggling with the same CLO, it is more likely a sign that either a) something in the course was not explained clearly enough, or b) students were not fairly assessed in that course. After changes have been made to the course, future assessment results are compared to past results and the internal "Verification" portion of this cycle continues.
In order to ensure that our students are obtaining the real-world results we are striving for, we also perform an external "Validation" portion of this cycle. Once annually, students and alumni will be asked to complete a survey; the metrics obtained from these surveys are then compared to the PEOs and reviewed by and internal Impact Auditing Committee. These results are very important to us and the quality of our program, and we rely on the voluntary responses of our program participants; please help us and our future students by taking part in our annual surveys!
Program assessment is a living process, and we are making improvements to our methodology all the time. The latest details on the process and results will be maintained on our Mentorship Program Assessment page if you would like to follow our progress.
Domains of Learning
The Cognitive Domain - Bloom's Taxonomy
The Affective Domain - Krathwohl's Taxonomy
The Psychomotor Domain - Dave's Taxonomy
Styles of Learning
Our entire curriculum is available free of charge for members of our online community, and you can join our community for free at any time right here.
- T. User, Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, 2019 – 2020, ABET, 2019. Accessed on: Apr. 2, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-accrediting-engineering-programs-2019-2020/
- B.S. Bloom, M.D. Engelhart, E.J. Furst, W.H. Hill, and D.R. Krathwohl, Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1956.