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Achieving Compelling Student Comprehension Of Complex Information Structures For Both On Site And On Line Courses

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Web-Based Learning in Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.140.1 - 13.140.15



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Paper Authors

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Ronald Uhlig National University

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Ali Farahani

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Howard Evans National University


Shekar Viswanathan National University

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Dr. Viswanathan is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Applied Engineering and Lead
Faculty for Engineering Management and Homeland Security and Safety Engineering. He is the
Lead for six full time and fifty two adjunct faculty members. His department offers three
undergraduate and six graduate programs and has a student population of three hundred students.
Dr. Viswanathan is an educator, researcher and administrator with more than twenty-five years of
industrial and academic experience encompassing engineering and environmental consulting,
research and development, and technology development. His career experience includes teaching
at the University level, conducting fundamental research, and developing continuing educational

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Mark Sotelo National University

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Mark Sotelo is the Director of Academic Computing for National University. Mr. Sotelo has over 20 years experience in technical and operations management at National University. He received both his Bachelor of Business Administration and his Master of Business Administration degrees from National University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Achieving Compelling Student Comprehension of Complex Information Structures for both On-Site and On-Line Courses

Abstract Teaching engineering and technology subjects involves conveying understanding of abstract information structures and processes such as complex telecommunications protocols, complex mathematical concepts, and data structures. These are multidimensional and can be difficult to grasp quickly. Supported by a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Technology for Teaching grant, the School of Engineering and Technology at National University has embarked on a project to enable students to grasp these complex concepts more quickly and easily, using continuous dialog among students and instructors as the structures are first introduced and then examined from multiple perspectives through real-time interaction among students, small groups, and instructors. HP Wireless Tablet PCs are used to discuss and experiment with diagrams and processes in real- time. This allows combining lectures and problem-solving sessions into a single class session. Our hypothesis is that: 1) an in-depth learning of theory is accomplished, and 2) student engagement is enhanced. Presentation of theory by the instructor is integrated with application while the theory is still in the student’s short-term memory. Students no longer have to wait for a separate session such as a recitation session to apply the concepts. This approach often takes less time. In addition to accelerating the learning process, expert instructors find this approach more rewarding as students grasp new concepts more quickly. Analysis of data captured from both students and instructors are presented to support our hypotheses, and our results are compared with similar research carried out by other universities. In addition, the level of interaction enabled by the use of HP Tablets in on-line classes is discussed. The best teaching tools available in existing on-line teaching platforms are compared with the additional tools available in on-site courses when every student has a wireless Tablet PC and specific recommendations are made to on-line teaching. These tools will enable a higher level of interaction between students and instructors to enhance learning of engineering and technology subjects, even in those cases where the on-line students may be using a computer other than a tablet PC. Introduction In his famous essay, Eugene Wigner commented, “the miracle of appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.”1 But it is not always easy for engineering students to grasp this “appropriateness”. And understanding the relationship between mathematics and the physical world is only the start. Engineering students must learn to grasp many complex and sometimes abstract logical structures and processes. A few examples include queues, trees and, more generally, data structures in computer science; various kinds of database designs in information systems; layered architectures and complex telecommunication protocols in data networks; digital signal processing algorithms to generate, transmit and receive multiplexed radio signals; complex mathematical equations and graphs; and a myriad of details of physical structures in

Uhlig, R., & Farahani, A., & Evans, H., & Viswanathan, S., & Sotelo, M. (2008, June), Achieving Compelling Student Comprehension Of Complex Information Structures For Both On Site And On Line Courses Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3211

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015