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Designing Effective User Interfaces For Software Simulations To Teach Signal Processing Concepts

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Computational Tools and Simulation I

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.430.1 - 14.430.9

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Paper Authors


Sam Shearman National Instruments

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Sam Shearman is a Senior Product Manager for Signal Processing and Communications at National Instruments (Austin, TX). Working for the firm since 2000, he has served in product management and R&D roles related to signal processing, communications, and measurement. Prior to working with NI, he worked as a technical trade press editor and as a research engineer. As a trade press editor for "Personal Engineering & Instrumentation News," he covered PC-based test and analysis markets. His research engineering work involved embedding microstructures in high-volume plastic coatings for non-imaging optics applications. He received a BS (1993) in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA).

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

Designing Effective User Interfaces for Software Simulations to Teach Signal Processing Concepts Abstract

Educators have embraced software simulations as a tool for teaching signal processing concepts. Simulations allow students to interact with abstract concepts such as convolution, difference equations, filtering, sampling theory and many more. Software simulations strive to achieve learning objectives by presenting an interactive user interface that gives students the ability to interactively explore relationships. Such interaction seeks to improve learning by fostering an intuitive feel for the relationship between parameters and the results.

It is evident that the design of the user interface plays a key role in success or failure. For instance, students can easily be distracted by elements of the software or activities that are not directly related to the subject at hand.

This paper presents user interface design advice that works toward development of software simulations and related student activities for teaching signal processing that successfully achieve learning objectives. Interactive software demonstrations developed using NI LabVIEW provide examples that support the discussion.

Software for Signal Processing Education

Educators have long realized the value of the PC for signal processing education1-6. A standard desktop or laptop PC offers a hardware platform for exploration and design that is widely accessible. Engineering software environments such as National Instruments LabVIEW7 enable educators and students to create, modify, and interact with custom educational software applications that explore linearity, time invariance, signal representation, transforms, digital filters, sampling theory, convolution, and other signal processing concepts. Such software can act as a tool to demonstrate a concept or as the basis for student exercises. It can be distributed in a variety of ways; on DVDs or through the Internet, sometimes through a convenient browser- based interface8-9.

This paper focuses on signal processing concept software with graphical user interface (GUI) elements for interactivity. Such software can enable interactive examination of concepts through experimentation in which students specify trials by manipulating controls on the user interface such as knobs, dials, digital controls, switches, and buttons. As the input parameters are changed, the software shows the result by updating indicators on the user interface such as graphs, plots, numeric displays, and LEDs.

Shearman, S. (2009, June), Designing Effective User Interfaces For Software Simulations To Teach Signal Processing Concepts Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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