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Laptops In The Lecture To Promote Active Learning

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Three P's in Introduction to Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.805.1 - 8.805.10



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Paper Authors

author page

Robert Montgomery

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

Session 3453

Laptops in the Lecture to Promote Active Learning

Robert E. Montgomery, Heidi A. Diefes-Dux Department of Freshman Engineering, Purdue University


Use of the traditional lecture format to teach software tool syntax and procedures is not engaging. Students find it difficult to take effective lecture notes and may not schedule time to practice with materials demonstrated by the instructor until several days after the lecture. The addition of active learning exercises to the lecture, enabled through use of a mobile LAN of wireless- equipped laptop computers, should improve the students' learning of course material as it better enables students to follow along with the lecture. This paper will discuss the effect of using laptops on student learning in ENGR 106, Engineering Problem Solving and Computer Tools, at Purdue University in the spring of 2002. A pilot was conducted with a class size of 48 students. To control for the effect of class size, a separate section of equal size was taught using the traditional lecture format. To minimize lost time at the start and end of each class to deploy the laptops, the lecture schedule was amended from two 50-minute lectures to a single 110-minute lecture per week. Results show that while students in both of these small classes were more satisfied with the course and performed better in meeting selected learning objectives than students placed in a larger lecture section, there were some performance measure differences that do support the use of laptop computers in the lectures. New assessment measures and preliminary results for the Spring 2003 implementation of the pilot will be discussed.


Learning about computer software tools, even in an engineering problem-solving context, can be a sleep-inducing experience, particularly in a traditional lecture setting. Even when students are given lecture outlines in advance, note-taking is awkward at best, and especially so if the lecturer deviates from the outline. By the time the student rewrites or reviews the notes and attempts to perform the computer-based tasks covered therein, much of the clarity of the lecture has vanished. The solutions to this problem seldom address the fundamental problem: engaging the student immediately in learning the target materials.

At Purdue University, Freshman Engineering students are required to take ENGR 106 - Engineering Problem Solving and Computer Tools. This course introduces students to engineering fundamentals, including graphical representation, statistics, and economics, and computer tools used to solve engineering problems, specifically MATLAB, Excel, and UNIX. Enrollments in ENGR 106 average approximately 1500 students in the fall and 400 students in the spring with traditional lecture section sizes of approximately 450 students in the fall and 400 students in the spring.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Diefes-Dux, H., & Montgomery, R. (2003, June), Laptops In The Lecture To Promote Active Learning Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11821

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