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Flipped Classroom Experiences Built on Personal Instrumentation

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Labs & Hands-on Instruction II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Kenneth A. Connor Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Kenneth Connor is a professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE) where he teaches courses on electromagnetics, electronics and instrumentation, plasma physics, electric power, and general engineering. His research involves plasma physics, electromagnetics, photonics, biomedical sensors, engineering education, diversity in the engineering workforce, and technology enhanced learning. He learned problem solving from his father (ran a gray iron foundry), his mother (a nurse) and grandparents (dairy farmers). He has had the great good fortune to always work with amazing people, most recently professors teaching circuits and electronics from 13 HBCU ECE programs and the faculty, staff and students of the SMART LIGHTING ERC, where he is Education Director. He was ECSE Department Head from 2001 to 2008 and served on the board of the ECE Department Heads Association from 2003 to 2008.

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Dianna Newman University at Albany/SUNY

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Dr. Dianna Newman is a research professor at the Evaluation Consortium at the University at Albany/SUNY. Her major areas of study are program evaluation with an emphasis in STEM related programs. She has numerous chapters, articles, and papers on technology-supported teaching and learning as well as systems-change stages pertaining to technology adoption.

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Kathy Ann Gullie Ph.D. Evaluation Consortium, University at Albany/SUNY

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Dr. Kathy Gullie has extensive experience as a Senior Evaluator and Research Associate through the Evaluation Consortium at the University at Albany/SUNY. She is currently the principal investigator in several educational grants including an NSF engineering grant supporting Historically Black University and Colleges; "Building Learning Communities to Improve Student Achievement: Albany City School District” , and “Educational Leadership Program Enhancement Project at Syracuse University” Teacher Leadership Quality Program. She is also the PI on both “Syracuse City School District Title II B Mathematics and Science Partnership: Science Project and Mathematics MSP Grant initiatives.

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Paul M. Schoch Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Paul Schoch is an Associate Professor in the Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His teaching includes the circuits and electronics sequence in his home department as well as an instrumentation course for non-electrical majors and an embedded control course available for all engineering majors. His research is in diagnostics for high temperature plasma. He is the director of the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education, a K-12 outreach arm at Rensselaer.

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The instructional practice of flipped classrooms is being investigated where specific content is provided via online video lectures, and class time is devoted to hands-on practice of concepts. There are two courses involved in this study. The first – Electronics Instrumentation (the main electronics course taken by student outside of Electrical and Computer Engineering) – was transitioned to flipped instruction in 2010 using the Mobile Studio as student-owned personal instrumentation. The flipped environment evolved with basically the same instrumentation toolset through the Fall of 2013, after which Analog Discovery became the platform of choice and course development continued through the Spring of 2015. During this period in which a single instructor developed and delivered the course, student and faculty perceptions of the use of online video lectures and the in-class active experiential learning (i.e., how both methods were used, their impact on student affect and cognition, as well as facilitators and barriers) and documentation of the process of continual development used to refine the implementation of the flipped classroom approach, were documented in a series of papers and book chapters. Although many students have some prior experience with video lectures, their comfort levels have not been consistently. A major focus of this development effort has been to provide students with scaffolding infrastructure so they can become more confident and successful in this learning environment. In the last year of this period, students demonstrated an acceptance in learning via the flipped classroom approach. The majority of students indicated they would not change anything about the group learning process in the flipped classroom. Students noted limitations to learning; individual learning characteristics appeared to have an effect on student perceptions of learning in a flipped classroom. With the general success of the flipped approach and the availability of new, higher performance personal instrumentation, we transitioned all course activities to new hardware and software while also enhancing the personal interaction between students, teaching assistants and the instructor to address, as much as possible, how each student could best raise their level of expertise in electronics. A major evolutionary event in Electronic Instrumentation occurred in Fall 2015 when it was taken over by a new instructor. The second course is an entirely new first year Introduction to ECE Analysis, first offered also in the Fall of 2015. Lessons learned in Electronic Instrumentation and even significant content have had a strong impact on this new course. This paper will address the impact of these changes measured through student surveys, performance on class assignments and examinations and, in the case of Electronic Instrumentation, feedback from the new instructor. The new first year course, while superficially similar in topics covered to Electronic Instrumentation, is a very different course. First, because there are no formal college level prerequisites (only a typical high school science and math experience is assumed), circuit analysis emphasizes algebraic methods and preparation for future circuits and electronics courses. An even more important distinction is the emphasis on a more complete and integrated Experimental Centric Pedagogy (ECP) than has been the case in Electronic Instrumentation (EI). Essentially every concept is first introduced through an experiment (experiment first) which requires that a substantial fraction of time spent in and out of class is dedicated to enhancing the students skills as electronics experimenters. A new outcome for EI and also included in the new course is that students will be able to identify online circuit designs that are relevant to their design projects (in these and other courses) and be able to effectively modify the designs to meet the specific needs of their projects. This concept has been under limited development in EI.

Connor, K. A., & Newman, D., & Gullie, K. A., & Schoch, P. M. (2016, June), Flipped Classroom Experiences Built on Personal Instrumentation Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26918

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