Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Robert Stupnisky


The collegiate aviation programs of higher education are seeking to adapt their capabilities and expertise toward educating a generation of airmen who will operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The collection of studies presented in this dissertation address this interest as higher education programs investigate the value of modalities and pedagogies, tune the application of instructional aids, and assess novel measurements for how students interact with their training. Three studies were completed in building this program of research. Study I, Waller et al. (2016), was published in a peer-reviewed journal and is adapted for reprint with permission. Study I established the effectiveness of a software trainer to improve students’ ability to interact with the MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) when students were granted access via either a traditional, blended, or distance modality. Study II expanded the work of Waller et al. (2016), increasing the sample size to reach across the curriculum as well as accounting for students’ pilot certification to better isolate the effect of modality on student performance with the MQ-9 Heads Down Display (HDD) menus. Lastly, Study III assessed whether workload and engagement could be measured by cognitive state estimation as students conducted simulated MQ-1 RPA training. This program of research advances the understanding of RPA instruction by (1) assessing tools and methods that can contribute to a student’s training, and (2) demonstrating that cognitive state measurement is sensitive to changes in student workload and engagement.