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Learning MATLAB in the Inverted Classroom

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Topics in Computer Science and Programming

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.883.1 - 25.883.19



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Paper Authors


Robert Talbert Grand Valley State University

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Robert Talbert is Associate Professor of mathematics at Grand Valley State University. Formerly, he was Associate Professor of mathematics and computing science at Franklin College, where he was also the Director of that school's 3+2 engineering program with Purdue University. His scholarly interests include cryptography, computer science, and educational technology with a special emphasis on using technology to support active learning environments in the university classroom. He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Vanderbilt University.

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Learning MATLAB in the Inverted ClassroomIn a typical classroom setting, knowledge is initially transmitted to students through lectures andthen assimilated by students through group work, labs, or homework. A flaw in this arrangementis that the activity that is simplest from a cognitive standpoint -- transmission -- takes up themajority of class time; while the assimilation phase, which involves much higher-order cognitivetasks, takes place outside of class and beyond the reach of the instructor. Hence, students oftenfind themselves working on tasks that require the greatest amount of instructor interventionprecisely when that intervention is least effectively available.One way to ameliorate this problem is to use an “inverted classroom” structure, in which thetransmission phase takes place outside of class, leaving class time free to be used on activities inthe assimilation phase with direct instructor supervision. In the past, moving the transmissionphase outside of class meant having students read from a textbook, a task with notoriously lowparticipation rates and which in many cases requires cognitive skills at least as complex as theassimilation-phase tasks toward which the students are moving. But today, the availability ofcheap, ubiquitous, and simple technology for creating and sharing content -- such as YouTubeand podcasting -- has made the externalization of the transmission phase of learning easier thanever to implement.In this paper, we will discuss the application of the inverted classroom model to an introductoryMATLAB course for first-year students. The course used no textbook and involved no in-classlecture apart from the first class meeting. The course was broken into distinct learning objectivesfor each class meeting, and students used existing online documentation and internet videos(some created specifically for this class by the author) along with targeted pre-class homeworkexercises to acquire basic concepts in MATLAB. Then, the in-class portion of the course wasspent on lab work in groups on more complicated problems stemming from their out-of-classwork. We describe the instructional design principles of this course and inverted classroomcourses in general, the evolution of the course since its inception, qualitative information onstudent attitudes towards technology and learning as a result of the course, and best practices forfinding and creating content for out-of-class knowledge transmission.

Talbert, R. (2012, June), Learning MATLAB in the Inverted Classroom Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21640

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