A unique method for promoting reflection among engineering students was used in the present study involving a digital circuits course. The method combined computer-based simulation for digital circuit design with reflective-thought prompts after a midterm exam for post-exam analysis and reflection. This method was first implemented in a microelectronics course using the SPICE simulator. Lessons learned from the initial implementation were applied to the digital circuits course. These lessons learned included the need to scaffold students in the use of the simulation tool for reflection, the need to balance frequency of reflection with student workload and fatigue, and question prompts that voluntarily elicit broad thought after a milestone event such as a midterm exam (versus a quiz). Using a published depth rubric, the assessment results found increased depth of reflection in the present course relative to the initial implementation in microelectronics. Specifically, there were increases in depth of reflection after the midterm exam in the present course versus the midterm exam and two quizzes in the microelectronics course. The increases in depth were significant relative to the quizzes. There was also an increase in the relative occurrence of broad reflections in the present course, with significant differences compared to the quizzes. Although significant differences were not found in the final exam averages based on depth of reflection after the midterm exam or participation in this reflection, results from a follow-up survey several months after the course ended indicated benefit for students. Specifically, 80% of those who competed the reflection exercise indicated a high or very high perceived benefit from doing so. Of the approximately 50% who chose not to complete the reflection exercise, the primary reasons were identified via the follow-up survey. Findings from this work align with and add to the developing literature on student reactions to reflection.
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With technology embedded in an increasing number of educational contexts, it is prudent to identify ways in which instructors can leverage technology to benefit their pedagogical practices. The purpose of this study was to determine if information about students’ active windows on their personal computers could provide actionable information to inform real-time instructional interventions and post-lecture reflection on practices. The active window approach mitigates issues with prior data collection methods and provides an opportunity to capture complete, real-time student computer usage without the need to install spyware. Based on observing 68 first-year engineering students and 32 second-year engineering students in large engineering lectures, we generated error rates of 4.28% with a 95% confidence interval of [2.81%, 6.04%] in a structured computer use course setting and 6.89% with [4.42%, 10.17%] in a semi-structured use setting. To illustrate the type of information active window monitoring could provide, we captured active window data from 135 students every 12 seconds for an entire 75-minute lecture. The data was averaged to generate a timeline which provided insight into how students responded to the instructor’s methods. This research has immediate practical implications in course design, instructional strategies, and engineering education research methods.
Evidence-based instruction or active learning is being more widely implemented in college teaching, and there is a need for instructors, evaluators and researchers to quantify their implementation in order to, for example, determine the efficacy of a new instructional technique. Here we introduce a new method for measuring students’ level of engagement with their learning. The method relies on an established and research-based theoretical framework and is built in the form of a mobile application for the two most popular smartphone platforms. Five separate studies presented here establish the fidelity of the method, its ability to measure subtle variations among students within the same class, the students’ patterns of learning during out-of-class study periods, and the versatility of the app to make different measurements of learning in different contexts, including an exploratory examination of the impact of the sudden shift to remote learning prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
This paper is the second part of a two-part study on promoting the use of Open-Source Software (OSS) in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE) education. Part I demonstrated the capabilities and limitations of several popular OSS, namely, Python, Java, Modelica, and GNU Octave, in model simulation and analysis of dynamic systems, through a DC motor example. The DC motor was chosen as a representative of a large class of dynamic systems described by linear differential equations. The perceptions of MRE community members about the OSS and their applications, gathered through an online survey, were also presented in Part I. In this paper, another fundamental pillar of MRE systems development, i.e., controller implementation, is considered.
The goal of this paper is to describe the motivation, methodology and results of introducing Active Learning Techniques in a Digital Design course. Digital Design is a four-credit junior level course for electrical and computer-engineering technology majors at Farmingdale State College, State University of New York. The students enrolled in this course have a large range of skills in term of experience with laboratory equipment, computer-based tools, and programming. The course introduces students to VHDL Hardware Description Language as the design entry method for digital circuits and to Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) platforms for the implementation of the digital circuits. Active learning techniques implemented in the course offer students more learning opportunities, potentially improving students’ knowledge and skills in digital design.