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Active And Cooperative Learning Of Markov Processes In A Half Term Course

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.56.1 - 4.56.8

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Paper Authors

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Tava Lennon Olsen

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Joyce Yen

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

Section 3657

Active and Cooperative Learning of Markov Processes in a Half-Term Course Joyce Yen, Tava Lennon Olsen Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor


This paper discusses the design of a new half-term undergraduate course on Markov processes that has weekly lab exercises. The motivation for designing this course was two-fold. First, the Curriculum 2000 initiative in the University of Michigan College of Engineering has resulted in major curriculum redesign and in the introduction of half- semester courses. Second, we wanted to create a more engaging classroom environment for teaching Markov processes. The lab exercises are designed to introduce topics to students before lecture. The exercises are intended to help students develop intuition about certain properties of Markov processes as well as to encourage students to participate actively and cooperatively in the learning process. In this paper we present the background for the course development, discuss lab designs, and give one lab exercise example.

1. Introduction

This paper discusses the design of a new undergraduate course, Introduction to Markov Processes, in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) at the University of Michigan. This course, henceforth referred to as “the new course”, teaches the basics of Markov Processes to sophomores and juniors. Students taking this course have previously completed a semester of introductory probability and statistics. The new course differs from usual Markov processes courses in two key ways. First, it is a two- credit half-semester course consisting of four contact hours per week for seven weeks. Second, one hour per week is devoted to a lab that is designed to promote active and cooperative student learning.

“Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning.”1 Research has shown that students who participate in cooperative learning groups develop higher reasoning strategies and critical thinking skills than students who engage in the traditional competitive or individualistic learning strategies.2 Additionally, lectures have been found to focus on lower levels of cognition and learning.3 Students’ education can be enhanced if professors not only lecture but also include active learning activities in their classrooms. In active learning, “students solve problems, answer questions, formulate 4 questions of their own, discuss, explain, or brainstorm during class.” Active and cooperative learning encourages students to draw upon prior knowledge and focus on higher levels of understanding.5

Olsen, T. L., & Yen, J. (1999, June), Active And Cooperative Learning Of Markov Processes In A Half Term Course Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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