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Can Pen Tablets Be Used To Improve The Performance Of Place Bound Engineering Students?

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Web-based Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.257.1 - 15.257.11



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Paper Authors


Dale Buechler University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Wisconsin Teaching Fellow 2009 - 2010,
Electrical Engineering Assessment Chair 2008 - Present, ASEE Mathematics Division Chair 2006-2007, ASEE Mathematics Division Program Chair 2005-2006

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

Can Pen Tablets be used to improve the Performance of Place-Bound Engineering Students?


Office hours are an essential component of undergraduate engineering education. In a traditional program, student questions that arise during the completion of assigned work are handled through face to face office hours. Our collaborative electrical engineering program, which allows students to complete their entire four-year degree on site, is taught primarily by on-site faculty and is supplemented through distance education offerings taught via streaming video (SV). We have found that most of our place-bound students, both in distance and face to face offerings, underutilize office hours due to outside constraints. Since most engineering students have a difficult time verbalizing what they are having trouble with, it is difficult for these students to get their remote questions answered adequately without being able to share the same piece of paper. In our SV offerings, we have experimented with web conferencing software to obtain equivalent office hours for distance students and found that this was successful, provided that both the instructor and the student had tablet PCs. Unfortunately the cost of tablet PCs provides a barrier to both students and to academic institutions. In response to this need, a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Project (SoTL) was designed to investigate the use of a relatively inexpensive technology, pen tablets, to improve the access of place-bound students to assistance from instructors and fellow students. Each participating student in the fall section of analog electronics was provided with a pen tablet for the semester and agreed to participate in think-aloud sessions with their instructor. They also were encouraged to use this technology to regularly communicate with their instructor and fellow students. Students were provided with surveys after each think- aloud session and at the end of the semester. Survey results include their feelings about the technology, their use of the technology, and their thoughts about its future use. Data about student improvement on think-aloud topics and overall class performance is presented.


The University of Wisconsin-Platteville began offering their undergraduate electrical engineering program to place bound students and working adults at two of the two-year campuses within the university system in the Fall of 20061,2. Recently the program has been extended to students at the other eleven two-year campuses within the university system via streaming video (asynchronously). The program is designed so that students can earn a bachelor’s degree without ever leaving their local two-year college campus. Nationally, very few electrical engineering programs offer undergraduate courses via distance and the few that do are taught synchronously and require at least some of the work to be completed on campus3,4,5. Courses at the two original collaborative sites are delivered by on-site faculty and are supplemented by streaming-video offerings. Streaming-video offerings are delivered via state- of-the-art technology along with courseware management systems and face to face portable lab instruction. Most of the students at the collaborative sites are balancing jobs and/or family commitments which restrict their travel to campus as well as their interaction with fellow classmates and their instructor. To date most of that experience has been with non-traditional students who are receiving face to face instruction6. With the addition of distance students to the program, this task has been made even more challenging. In the future, not only will there be

Buechler, D. (2010, June), Can Pen Tablets Be Used To Improve The Performance Of Place Bound Engineering Students? Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16819

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