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Pedagogical And Cost Effectiveness Of Computer Assisted Learning In Control Systems Education

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.350.1 - 1.350.14

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Paper Authors

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R. Welch

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K.R. Goheen

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

1 ---- Session#: 3525

Pedagogical and Cost Effectiveness of Computer-Assisted Learning in Control Systems Education

R. Welch, K.R. Goheen Ingenia Communications Corporation/Ryerson Polytechnic University


This study examines the use of courseware to teach feedback control systems material to undergraduate mechanical and aerospace engineering students. Courseware for teaching the frequency response portion of the course was developed using Asymetrix Multimedia Toolbox and subsequently tested on a third year (Junior) level class. Academic results and attitudes of the students were examined and statistically compared to those of a control group. It was found that there was very little difference in the academic results and attitudes of students in the computer group and students in the lecture group. In addition, the effectiveness of the courseware was not related to students’ previous computer experience. A cost analysis indicated that in most scenarios the use of courseware to teach control systems would be more costly than traditional lectures.

1.0 Introduction

Like most types of Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL), courseware is rarely used in engineering faculties. Most modern courseware uses multimedia techniques to teach material. Individual users proceed through the material at their own pace, and can often adapt the manner or the order in which topics are learned to suit their learning style. Courseware is used more and more often in education, both at the pre-university level and in higher education. Very little engineering courseware exists, however, which is unusual for a discipline that has otherwise embraced computing technology.

A subject areas best-suited to be a testing ground for CAL in engineering education is control systems. This is in great part due to the highly mathematical nature of the material and the need for numerical graphical representations. Use of computer technology in the practice of control engineering is widespread.

As early as the 1970s, computers were being used to assist teaching control systems. Broome and Woolvetl created “[a] program. . . which permits interactive control system design, suitable for use by students either to run tutorial exercises as a back up to lecture material, or to integrate with laboratory work”. The program was written in FORTRAN IV for 8K computers such as the Honeywell H3 16. The use of computer for control systems education has since then become widespread. According to a survey of control systems curricula by Feliachi 2, “[software packages of a wide variety are being used by most schools. The most popular packages (in frequency of usage) are MATLAB, MATRIX-X, ACSL, DESIRE, and CC”. These packages are typically used in conjunction with the traditional lecture format. Feliachi did not identi~ any software packages being used to teach the material other than to reinforce the material taught in the lectures. .-

Welch, R., & Goheen, K. (1996, June), Pedagogical And Cost Effectiveness Of Computer Assisted Learning In Control Systems Education Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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