Articles | Volume 16, issue 10
Research article
24 Oct 2012
Research article |  | 24 Oct 2012

HydroViz: design and evaluation of a Web-based tool for improving hydrology education

E. Habib, Y. Ma, D. Williams, H. O. Sharif, and F. Hossain

Abstract. HydroViz is a Web-based, student-centered, educational tool designed to support active learning in the field of Engineering Hydrology. The design of HydroViz is guided by a learning model that is based on learning with data and simulations, using real-world natural hydrologic systems to convey theoretical concepts, and using Web-based technologies for dissemination of the hydrologic education developments. This model, while being used in a hydrologic education context, can be adapted in other engineering educational settings. HydroViz leverages the free Google Earth resources to enable presentation of geospatial data layers and embed them in web pages that have the same look and feel of Google Earth. These design features significantly facilitate the dissemination and adoption of HydroViz by any interested educational institutions regardless of their access to data or computer models. To facilitate classroom usage, HydroViz is populated with a set of course modules that can be used incrementally within different stages of an engineering hydrology curriculum. A pilot evaluation study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the HydroViz tool in delivering its educational content, to examine the buy-in of the program by faculty and students, and to identify specific project components that need to be further pursued and improved. A total of 182 students from seven freshmen and senior-level undergraduate classes in three universities participated in the study. HydroViz was effective in facilitating students' learning and understanding of hydrologic concepts and increasing related skills. Students had positive perceptions of various features of HydroViz and they believe that HydroViz fits well in the curriculum. In general, HydroViz tend to be more effective with students in senior-level classes than students in freshmen classes. Lessons gained from this pilot study provide guidance for future adaptation and expansion studies to scale-up the application and utility of HydroViz and other similar systems into various hydrology and water-resource engineering curriculum settings. The paper presents a set of design principles that contribute to the development of other active hydrology educational systems.