Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

First Advisor

Krishna Madhavan

Committee Chair

Krishna Madhavan

Committee Member 1

Monica Cox

Committee Member 2

Niklas Elmqvist

Committee Member 3

Mihaela Vorvoreanu


Engineering education research has grown into a flourishing community with an-ever increasing number of publications and scholars. However, recent studies show that a significant amount of engineering education knowledge retains a clear disciplinary orientation. If the gaps in scholarly collaboration continue to be prevalent within the entire community, it will become increasingly difficult to sustain community memory. This will eventually inhibit the propagation of innovations and slow the movement of research findings into practice.

This dissertation studies scholarly collaboration in the engineering education research community. It provides a clear characterization of collaboration problems and proposes potential solutions. The dissertation is composed of four studies. First, the dissertation recognizes gaps in scholarly collaboration in the engineering education research community. To achieve this goal, a bibliometric analysis based on 24,172 academic articles was performed to describe the anatomy of collaboration patterns. Second, the dissertation reviewed existing technologies that enhance communication and collaboration in engineering and science. This review elaborated and compared features in 12 popular social research network sites to examine how these features support scholarly communication and collaboration. Third, this dissertation attempted to understand engineering education scholars‟ behaviors and needs related to scholarly collaboration. A grounded theory study was conducted to investigate engineering education scholars‟ behaviors in developing collaboration and their technology usage. Finally, a user-centered software design was proposed as a technological solution that addressed community collaboration needs.

Results show that the engineering education research community is at its early stage of forming a small world network relying primarily on a small number of key scholars in the community. Scholars‟ disciplinary background, research areas, and geographical locations are factors that affect scholarly collaboration. To facilitate scholarly communication and collaboration, social research network sites started to be adopted by scholars in various disciplines. However, engineering education scholars still prefer face-to-face interactions, emails, and phone calls for connecting and collaborating with other scholars. Instead of connecting to other scholars online, the present study shows that scholars develop new connections and maintain existing connections mainly by attending academic conferences. Some of these connections may eventually develop into collaborative relationships. Therefore, one way to increase scholarly collaboration in engineering education is to help scholars better network with others during conferences. A new mobile/web application is designed in this dissertation to meet this user need.

The diffusion of innovation theory and the small world network model suggest that a well-connected community has real advantages in disseminating information quickly and broadly among its members. It allows research innovations to produce greater impacts and to reach a broader range of audiences. It can also close the gap between scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds. This dissertation contributes to enhancing community awareness of the overall collaboration status in engineering education research. It informs policy making on how to improve collaboration and helps individual scientists recognize potential collaboration opportunities. It also guides the future development of communication and collaboration tools used in engineering education research.