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New Web-Based Interactive Learning Material for Digital Design

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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

Effective Use of Technology in Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Frank Vahid University of California - Riverside

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Frank Vahid is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Univ. of California, Riverside. His research interests include embedded systems design, and engineering education. He is a co-founder of

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Alex Daniel Edgcomb Zybooks

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Alex Edgcomb finished his PhD in computer science at UC Riverside in 2014. Alex works with, a startup that develops interactive, web-native textbooks in STEM. Alex has also continued working as a research specialist at UC Riverside with his PhD advisor, studying the efficacy of web-native content for STEM education.

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Susan Lysecky Zybooks

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Susan Lysecky received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside in 2006. She served as a faculty member at the University of Arizona from 2006-2014. She has a background in design automation and optimization for embedded systems, as well as experience in the development of accessible engineering curricula and learning technologies. She is currently a Senior Content Developer at zyBooks, a startup that develops highly-interactive, web-­native textbooks for a variety of STEM disciplines.

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Roman Lysecky University of Arizona

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Roman Lysecky is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside in 2005. His research interests include embedded systems, runtime optimization, non-intrusive system observation methods, data-adaptable systems, and embedded system security. He has recently coauthored multiple textbooks, published by zyBooks, that utilize a web-native, interactive, and animated approach, which has shown notable increases in student learning and course grades.

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Studying college-level digital design involves both the learning of concepts and the developing of skills, as with various other engineering topics. For example, converting a Boolean function to a minimized circuit not only involves learning concepts of Boolean algebra, but also developing skills in creating truth tables, minimizing equations via K-maps, and converting equations to circuits. Sequential design involves not only learning concepts of state machines, but also developing skills in describing behavior as a state machine, and converting to a controller. Developing skills especially benefits from practice, via homework. But, assigning and grading sufficient homework problems is a challenge for instructors, due to limited time and resources. Furthermore, traditional grading of homework has long feedback cycles, which is not conducive to learning.

We thus created new web-based interactive learning material for digital design, to replace existing textbooks. To help master concepts, the material makes extensive use of interactive activities like animations and learning questions. To help master both concepts and skills, the material integrates web-based simulators, and a homework system that auto-generates exercises, and that immediately auto-grades student answers while also providing feedback.

The material has been used at over 40 universities and several thousand students thus far. This paper describes the various items used throughout the material to help students both learn concepts and develop skills.

Vahid, F., & Edgcomb, A. D., & Lysecky, S., & Lysecky, R. (2016, June), New Web-Based Interactive Learning Material for Digital Design Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25794

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