The Hands-on Laboratory-driven Electrical Engineering
Curriculum project (Pandora)
seeks to address the need for skilled workers in electrical and computer
engineering. Funded by FIPSE, the project creates
entry-level electrical engineering courses that combine project-driven
curriculum and low-cost instrumentation tool kits, and offers these
courses to distance learning students at other universities, at community
colleges, and at home. The innovative curriculum development philosophy,
which is guided by the ABET
learning outcomes, positions hands-on experiments at the beginning of
each topic to motivate student learning, then adds instruction to clarify
and support student understanding.
- Develop a laboratory-driven curriculum for two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions to include hands-on hardware-based laboratory experience. The curriculum may be delivered on-site or synchronously on-line.
- Adapt and enhance this laboratory-driven curriculum to target students in geographically remote communities without convenient physical access to nearby post-secondary educational institutions. This curriculum is delivered asynchronously on-line.
- Establish a laboratory-driven curriculum development methodology common to two-year and four-year institutions, to provide hands-on laboratory experience at a reasonable cost.
||The evaluation plan includes both formative measures to provide feedback to project developers, and summative assessment to address project effectiveness as shown in Table 1, below. |
|Table 1. Project Timeline and Evaluation Activities|
|First Year: 2000-2001
|Lab Kit Development
|Curriculum Development EE 215, 233, 235, 341
|Second Year: 2001-2002
||EE 215 Pilot
||EE 233 & 235 Pilot
||EE 341 Pilot
|Third Year: 2002-2003
|(b), (c), (d)
||(b), (c), (d)
||(b), (c), (d)
||(b), (c), (d)
||Lab kit usability testing
Formative evaluation strategies contribute to the development and implementation of course materials. Evaluation questions include:
- How well do curricula map to ABET learning outcomes?
- How do students rate the quality of and their satisfaction with various instructional components?
- How do instructors rate the quality and effectiveness of the synchronous on-line format?
The summative evaluation will address the quality and usefulness of the
completed courses. Evaluation questions include:
- What is the overall quality and effectiveness of the on-site course
based on student ratings and review of course documents? How does the
on-site course with motivating experiments compare to similar courses
without the motivating experiments? Is there evidence of differences in
- What is the overall quality and effectiveness of the synchronous
on-line and at-home versions of the course? How do these courses compare
to each other and to the on-site version in terms of student satisfaction
and quality ratings? Are the printed materials well laid-out and useful?
Are the instrumentation tool kits useful, easy to sue, reliable, and
inexpensive? What special problems do students have taking these courses?
- How do participating instructors rate the quality and effectiveness of
the courses? What do they think of the effectiveness of the motivating
experiments and the underlying instructional philosophy? Are faculty
handbooks well laid out and useful?
- What are the demographic characteristics of students enrolled in each
type of course?
First Year Progress Report
The first year of the Pandora Project has focused on curriculum
development and production of the lab kit. Monthly meetings of the
project team track progress and provide a venue for communicating
developments and clarifying strategies.
A pilot test of the lab kit was conducted during spring quarter 2001,
using four student volunteers. The project director made observational
notes as each student used the lab kit, and students were asked to
complete a short questionnaire. Student responses were enthusiastic and
suggested that the lab kit was much easier to use than current
instrumentation in the lab. They also made several suggestions for
improvement of the lab kit that will be incorporated in its ongoing
Second Year Progress Report
The second year of the Pandora project has continued to include
monthly meetings of the project team to track progress and to provide a
venue for communicating developments and clarifying strategies. The team
has been developing course materials, reviewing and revising the online
curriculum, and continuing the process of creating a lab kit at a
reasonable cost. The second year was also the pilot year for the first
course, EE 215.
As part of Pandora's formative program evaluation process, the
Office of Educational Assessment (OEA) coordinates reviews of the online
course materials. During autumn quarter 2001, OEA carried out a focus group review session session for the
EE 215 online course. Five undergraduate engineering students who were
concurrently enrolled in the EE 215 on-campus course participated in the
review. The students viewed the curriculum and made a number of
suggestions for improving the EE 215 online materials.
The Student Handbook was developed
to assist students in understanding electrical engineering concepts.
During summer 2001, students enrolled in EE 233 were informed of resources
developed for their use, including the handbook. As part of the handbook
revision process, these students were asked to complete a questionnaire asking for their perceptions of the
handbook as a guide to their learning. Student
responses indicated that only five out of twenty-seven students used
the handbook. More often, students used the textbook as their primary
resource, even though it had many errors. Students indicated that the
handbook was fairly well written, but gave it lower ratings with respect
to usefulness of the content. In response to open-ended questions,
students stated that they had the most difficulty learning math concepts
and completing the problems for the course. They suggested including more
sample, real-world problems in the handbook and less text. Two other
suggestions provided were referring to the handbook as a workbook,
and making the internet link to it more obvious.
Interviews with Online EE 215 Students
The OEA conducted student
interviews of those enrolled in the online EE 215 during spring of 2002.
Students were interviewed two weeks into the course and again during the
final week of the quarter. The purpose of the student interviews was to
gather feedback on course progress and development, as well as to reflect
on the overall EE 215 experience. Student
responses indicated that while there are changes that need to made for
smoother course implementation, most students in hindsight would still
enroll in the course. This fact attests to the importance of providing EE
distance learning opportunities for students who have neither the time nor
the opportunity to take an on-campus course.
Macromedia Flash Animation Use in EE
Flash animations are being used
successfully in EE 235 to help students visualize and understand difficult
concepts through active learning that enhances student problem solving.
This technology consistently presents accurate information in a self-paced
environment permitting students to avoid boredom or confusion by "clicking
ahead" or returning to review.
EE 233 Student Focus Group: Lab
Videos and Online Materials
Students in the EE233 student focus
group did not consistently utilize the lab videos, but felt that they
would use the videos if they were improved. Students suggested including
more explanation of how to set up the labs and more examples of how to
approach challenging problems. Suggestions for improving online materials
included providing more practice problems; having instructors give
incentives for students to access online materials, making a clear web
link to online materials; and fixing answer formatting and scrolling