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Gateway Course Performance As Predictors of Success In Engineering Education
Gateway Course Performance as Predictors of Success in Engineering Education
To maintain global competitiveness, STEM education has received significant interest in the United States in the last decade. One result of that interest has been an increase in applications to college and university STEM related programs. In some engineering programs the increase in the number of students has caused a strain on the education infrastructure because programs have grown beyond their ability to deliver a high-quality education. A secondary effect has been a higher turnover or churn of students who either do not complete a higher education program at all or switch to a non-STEM program after 1 or 2 years. Current admission criteria focus heavily on high school GPA and SAT scores, however, there are significant differences in how different schools calculate GPA, while some schools have moved away completely from SAT scores.
Although more students are applying to engineering in some programs, the students are not necessarily prepared for a rigorous engineering curriculum. Many programs require student to pass one or more gateway courses with a “C” or better in order to proceed in the program. This paper considers the performance in a number of gateway courses at the Virginia Military Institute that all students have to complete in the Civil and Mechanical Engineering programs during their first and second years. These gateway courses are evaluated as predictors of success in the students’ engineering education. Specifically, the performance in Calculus 1 and 2, Statics and Solid Mechanics was analyzed for two cohorts of students: the classes of 2020 and 2021. Success was defined as graduating from the program with a GPA greater than 2.5. The correlations between performance in Calculus and Statics, Solid Mechanics, and ultimately successfully completing the engineering program was investigated. Whether the students repeated any of the courses and the effect that had on their success was also investigated.