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Assessment of Comprehension Retention in a Modern Electrical and Computer Engineering Curriculum

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2018

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 13

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/27634

Download Count

12

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Paper Authors

biography

Harry Courtney Powell University of Virginia

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Harry Powell is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering in1978 he was an active research and design engineer, focusing on automation, embedded systems, remote control, and electronic/mechanical co-design techniques, holding 16 patents in these areas. Returning to academia, he earned a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2011 at the University of Virginia. His current research interests include machine learning, embedded systems, electrical power systems, and engineering education.

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biography

Ronald D. Williams P.E. University of Virginia

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Ronald Williams is a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. His teaching responsibilities have typically been in the area of digital systems, embedded computing, and computer design. He has recently been actively involved in the redesign of the undergraduate electrical engineering curriculum. His research interests have focused on embedded computing for control and signal processing.

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Todd DeLong University of Virginia

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Dr. DeLong serves as a lecturer within the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the University of Virginia.

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Abstract

The breadth of topics emerging under the umbrella of Electrical and Computer Engineering appears to be growing at an exponential rate. For example, we now consider advanced materials fabrication techniques and applications, heterogeneous systems, neurological processing, and artificial intelligence all to be related to the field. Complicating this state of affairs further is the requirement for our undergraduates to still attain a level of proficiency in core electrical engineering concepts such as circuit analysis, signal processing, E&M fields, and embedded computing. Furthermore, it is important that the students understand the relationships between these topics and to view them as an entire spectrum, and not as individual courses to be dispensed with at the end of a semester. To address these concerns we have undergone a major curriculum update in Electrical and Computer Engineering at UXX. We have moved virtually all of our undergraduate core material to a studio format of instruction and directed our efforts to breadth-first instruction. Traditional courses in "Circuits", "Electronics", and "Signals and Systems" have evolved into a sequence of "Fundamentals" courses in which material from each of the three prior segments is taught each semester at increasing levels of depth. Embedded computing is also in a studio format and is taught from the perspective of how it is a component of an overall system. "E&M Fields" is also in a studio format and relies heavily on experimental techniques learned in "Fundamentals" and "Embedded Computing". Such sweeping changes also necessitate a reevaluation of how we assess student learning and concept retention. There are well-known concept inventory tests available, and they have been used in the past with varying degrees of success. However, these tests are "single-topic" in nature and do little to assess how well students visualize concepts from across the breadth of the curriculum. For example, there are concept inventories in "Electronics" but they do little to provide meaningful feedback about how well students understand the relationship between those concepts and how a circuit design might affect the Fourier series amplitudes of its output. Concept Inventories for "E&M Fields" are similarly restrictive and no inventories exist for Embedded Computing. In addition, existing inventories do little to assess how well students may construct tests to perform experimental verification of a concept and how well they can determine the veracity of such tests. In this paper, we present examples of assessment criteria for concept inventories suitable for testing how well students assimilate concepts in a breadth first fashion. We envision such inventories as assessing not only mastery of a particular topic, but also how well students understand the interrelated nature of the entire curriculum. We propose techniques such that student scores provide meaningful feedback on both breadth and depth; i.e. a score for each. We also present mechanisms such that instructors may evaluate the experiential side of the curriculum and how well students can bridge theoretical concepts with measured laboratory results.

Powell, H. C., & Williams, R. D., & DeLong, T. (2017, June), Assessment of Comprehension Retention in a Modern Electrical and Computer Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27634

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