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Interactive Tutorial System for Linear Circuit Analysis: Impact on Learning and Novel Tutorials

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Brian J Skromme Arizona State University

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Dr. Brian J. Skromme is a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering and is Assistant Dean of the Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was a member of technical staff at Bellcore from 1985 to 1989. His research interests are in engineering education, development of educational software, and compound semiconductor materials and devices.

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Xiang Gao Arizona State University

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Bhargav Korrapati Arizona State University


Vignesh Seetharam Arizona State University

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Vignesh Seetharam is currently a graduate student at Arizona State university, working towards a masters degree in Electrical engineering. He was born on December 9, 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Engineering degree from Meenakshi Sundararajan Engineering College, Anna university. His primary focus is on energy and power systems with inclination towards smart technology implementation.

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Yih-Fang Huang University of Notre Dame

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Dr. Yih-Fang Huang is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Senior Associate Dean for Education and Undergraduate Programs in the College of Engineering. He received his B.S.E.E. degree from National Taiwan University, M.S.E.E. degree from University of Notre Dame, M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He served as chair of Notre Dame’s Electrical Engineering department from 1998 to 2006. His research work employs principles in mathematical statistics to solve signal detection and estimation problems that arise in various applications that include wireless communications, distributed sensor networks and, more recently, smart electric power grid.

Dr. Huang is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) (’95). He received the Golden Jubilee Medal of the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society in 1999, served as Vice President in 1997-98 and was a Distinguished Lecturer for the same society in 2000-2001. At the University of Notre Dame, he received Presidential Award in 2003, the Electrical Engineering department’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 1994 and in 2011, the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2011, and the Engineering College’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 2013.

In Spring 1993, Dr. Huang received the Toshiba Fellowship and was Toshiba Visiting Professor at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. From April to July 2007, he was a visiting professor at the Munich University of Technology, Germany. In Fall, 2007, Dr. Huang was awarded the Fulbright-Nokia scholarship for lectures/research at Helsinki University of Technology in Finland.

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Daniel H Robinson The University of Texas at Austin

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Dan Robinson is a Professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in 1993 from the University of Nebraska where he majored in both learning/cognition and statistics/research. He has taught at Mississippi State University (1993-1997), the University of South Dakota (1997-1998), the University of Louisville (1998-1999), and the University of Texas (1999-2012).

Dr. Robinson serves as the editor of Educational Psychology Review and Associate Editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology. Dr. Robinson has served as an editorial board member of nine refereed international journals: American Educational Research Journal, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Educational Technology, Research, & Development, Journal of Behavioral Education, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Education, Reading Research and Instruction, Research in the Schools, and The Open Education Journal.

He has published over 100 articles, books, and book chapters, presented over 100 papers at research conferences, and taught over 100 college courses. His research interests include educational technology innovations that may facilitate learning, team-based approaches to learning, and examining trends in articles published in various educational journals and societies. He was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand and was named as one of the most published authors in educational psychology journals from 1991-1996, 1997-2002, 1991-2002, and 2003-2008, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 1998, 2004, 2010.

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We describe recent progress developing and evaluating step-based tutoring software for introductory linear circuit analysis courses. The system is based on a novel concept of automated problem generation, where the entire circuit or other problem to be solved is generated randomly (both topology or structure and numerical values), providing an unlimited supply of problems of gradually graded difficulty with corresponding isomorphic, fully worked examples. Further, students are never penalized when they give up on a problem, but are instead presented with a fully worked and explained solution, followed by a completely different problem of the same type. This approach boosts student confidence and adapts to the differing needs of individual students. Recent progress includes the release of several important new tutorial modules, including waveform sketching and Laplace transforms (for a total of 17 released modules). The former involves the sketching of waveforms as a function of time in an interactive web-based interface, where students are required to find the voltage across an inductor when given its current (by differentiating), and other similar problems. The latter involves computation of direct and inverse Laplace transforms from randomly generated functions of various types, where students use an interactive template-based interface to enter their equations for checking. Other important capabilities have been added this year, such as voltage and current division equations, generation of circuit solutions using superposition, and generation of transient circuit problems involving switches. The waveform sketcher is further being adapted to permit sketching of Bode plots from system response functions, and vice versa.

A previously reported laboratory evaluation showed a large, statistically significant (1.21 standard deviation) advantage for an earlier version of our system over traditional paper homework. In Fall 2015, we conducted a large in-class evaluation with ~70 students to compare our Circuit Tutor system to a widely used commercial publisher-based system. Students were randomly assigned to either use one system for node analysis homework, and the other system for mesh analysis homework, or vice versa. An in-class quiz then compared student performance. We further surveyed students on their preferences. We found a large, statistically significant [t(64) = 3.09, p < 0.05] advantage for Circuit Tutor on node analysis of 0.72 standard deviations (average score of 72% for students who used Circuit Tutor, compared to 49% for those who used the publisher system). For mesh analysis, the Circuit Tutor average was 71% vs. 65% for the publisher system, but the difference was not statistically significant [t(64) = 0.88, p = 0.38]. The larger advantage of our system for node analysis may be due to the fundamentally easier nature of mesh analysis. In the survey, 86% preferred Circuit Tutor and 9% preferred the publisher system, and 94% felt that Circuit Tutor more effectively taught them the topic for which they used it, and 3% felt that the publisher system was more effective. The Circuit Tutor system has now been used by over 2300 students in 54 class sections at eight different colleges and universities, with generally very favorable ratings.

Skromme, B. J., & Gao, X., & Korrapati, B., & Seetharam, V., & Huang, Y., & Robinson, D. H. (2016, June), Interactive Tutorial System for Linear Circuit Analysis: Impact on Learning and Novel Tutorials Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25439

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