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Introducing Electronics at Scale with a Massive Online Circuits Lab

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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

Software & Web-based Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Tom J. Zajdel University of California at Berkeley

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Tom J. Zajdel is a PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, where he designs microsystems that interface with bacterial cells for rapid low-power biosensing. He completed his BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2012.

During graduate school, he co-developed "EE40LX: Electronic Interfaces" with Professor Michel Maharbiz, a massive open online course that teaches basic circuit principles, reaching over 80 thousand students worldwide. Prior to his present studies, he worked on cochlear implant speech processing and electromagnetic wave scatter modeling. In 2010, he was selected the Most Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in Ohio State's Fundamentals of Engineering Honors program. He is a recipient of the Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

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Michel M. Maharbiz University of California at Berkeley

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Michel M. Maharbiz received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley under Professor Roger T. Howe (EECS) and Professor Jay D. Keasling (ChemE) in 2003. Until 2007, Michel Maharbiz was an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in 2008, where he is now an Associate Professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

He is the co-founder of Tweedle Technologies and Cortera Neurotech. Michel is a Bakar Fellow, was awarded a 2009 NSF Career Award and received popular recognition for this work in building interfaces to living organisms (MIT TR10, Time Magazine’s Top 50 Inventions of 2009). His current research interests include building micro/nano interfaces to cells and organisms and exploring bio-derived fabrication methods.

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This work describes the design and implementation of EE40LX: Electronic Interfaces, the first large-scale analog circuits laboratory hosted offered by edX. EE40LX revolved around constructing a robot, emphasizing hands-on circuit building over circuit analysis to keep the course broadly accessible. With over 80 thousand students from over 190 nations enrolled across one year, this course is the largest and most distributed open analog circuits laboratory of its kind. Its sheer scale necessitated careful design of the robot project and a robust rubric for peer grading. This paper presents a detailed description of the course and its instructional design. In total, 856 robots were built and over 2233 students earned a certificate of completion, a 2.5% overall completion rate. Students completed voluntary surveys at the beginning and end of the class to provide insight into the approaches that independent learners take when studying electronics at home. These surveys indicated that the peer review process resulted in fair grades and also that the course was well received. Other analytics provided by edX suggest ways to improve the completion rate; particularly by offering continuing education credits, introducing more simulation exercises, and simplifying the hardware acquisition process.

Zajdel, T. J., & Maharbiz, M. M. (2016, June), Introducing Electronics at Scale with a Massive Online Circuits Lab Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25451

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