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Improving Learning in Continuous-Time Signals and Systems Courses Through Collaborative Workshops

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.921.1 - 26.921.11



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Paper Authors

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Mario Simoni Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Maurice F. Aburdene Bucknell University

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Farrah Fayyaz Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology


Vladimir A Labay Gonzaga University

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Currently, Dr. Vladimir Labay is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, USA. Dr. Labay was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and earned a B.Sc.(E.E.) and M.Sc.(E.E.) from the University of Manitoba in 1987 and 1990, respectively. After graduating with a PhD from the University of Victoria in 1995, he remained in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada as a lecturer and small business owner until he accepted an assistant professor position in 1999 at Eastern Washington University located in Cheney, Washington, USA. In 2007 and 2014, Dr. Labay was visiting faculty at SRM University in Chennai, India and at Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH, respectively. He has previously held adjunct professorship positions at the University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, USA and at Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA. His research interests include modeling of and the development of microwave/millimeter-wave integrated circuit devices used in wireless and satellite communications. For the past several years, he has been active in the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) initiative at Gonzaga University that focuses on developing the entrepreneurial mindset in undergraduate engineering and computer science students.

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Jay Wierer Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Wenli Huang Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY

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Improving Learning in Continuous-Time Signals and Systems Courses Through Collaborative WorkshopsThe introductory continuous-time signals and systems (CTSS) course at the host institutionsuffers from drop/failure rates that are 2-6 times greater than other required electrical andcomputer engineering courses, which is a typical situation for most programs. We have receivedNSF funding to explore the sources of difficulty in such courses and determine effective methodsof helping students to learn the material. A major component of this project is to produce aworkshop that communicates pedagogical research results, gathers different perspectives fromother schools through focused discussion, and develops a broader community of interestedpedagogical researchers. By June, 2015, the workshop will have been offered five times, eachtime over a different duration from 1.5 hours to 3 days and with a varying audience. This paperdescribes the contents of the workshop, the experiences of the attendees, and the results ofinteracting with the various attendees.Regardless of the duration, the workshop is set up to address a series of questions: 1) Why areCTSS courses so difficult for students? 2) What can educators garner from learning theories andexperimentation to make CTSS courses more accessible for undergraduate students? 3) How canwe exploit conceptual learning theories to improve learning for conceptually difficult courses?4) What approaches were utilized to improve learning? 5) How can participants use what wascovered in the workshop to improve their own courses? The answers to the first three questionsare sought by promoting discussion among the attendees through presentation of historical data,analysis of student work samples, review of some relevant conceptual learning theories, andresults from research being done to identify student misconceptions and their sources. Question 4is addressed by demonstrating some hands-on application oriented learning activities that arebeing developed to improve learning in introductory CTSS courses. Finally, to address Question5, the attendees are given an opportunity to review the already developed activities in the contextof the discussion that occurred for the first three questions.After the five offerings as of September 2014, the workshop has been attended by approximately35 faculty members from almost as many different universities and two different industryrepresentatives. By sharing similar experiences about student difficulties in CTSS courses from awide range of institutions and curricula, a more complete picture of both the difficulties andsolutions to help students get past them is formed. For example, several new hands-on activitieswere developed by workshop attendees during the extended summer offerings. Several newperspectives with regard to conceptual learning theory were derived from offering the workshopand are now steering a Ph.D. dissertation study. Discussions have promoted and influenced aredesign of the hands-on laboratory sessions at Rose-Hulman. Faculty at a large researchuniversity were interested in collecting similar historical data to understand if changes that weremade to their curriculum were able to improve learning of CTSS concepts.

Simoni, M., & Aburdene, M. F., & Fayyaz, F., & Labay, V. A., & Wierer, J., & Huang, W. (2015, June), Improving Learning in Continuous-Time Signals and Systems Courses Through Collaborative Workshops Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24258

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