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Studio Based Instruction In Signals And Systems

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in ECE Education I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1326.1 - 12.1326.10



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Paper Authors


Christopher Greene University of Saint Thomas

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After a 24 year career in industry, Dr. Greene joined the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering where he teaches in both the Electrical and Mechanical engineering programs. He principally teaches Signals and Systems, Digital Electronics and Control Systems.

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

Studio-Based Signals and Systems Abstract

One of the more challenging aspects of most undergraduate electrical engineering programs is the Signals and Systems (SS) course, taught in virtually every EE program. The traditional lecture/exam format is, for many students, not effective at instilling the key concepts such that the students truly understand. They frequently fail at making the connections between mathematical results and physical results and lack the ability to gain engineering insights from mathematical results.

Various programs have approached these challenges by adding a lab, or augmenting their classes with web-based or computer demonstrations. Because of other pressures in the curriculum, we sought an alternative approach that did not increase laboratory time but obtained the goals of hands-on learning. In order to obtain the increases in comprehension we are seeking, our focus has been on inquiry-based methodologies. In this project, the Signals and Systems class is being totally redesigned. Using Microsoft Excel® and Matlab®, in-class exercises have been developed to motivate and demonstrate key concepts in Signals and Systems. This process has been incremental with some changes made every year and was first described in “Studio-Based Signals and Systems”. The current paper reports on the status of this transition and, most importantly, concentrates on an assessment of the effectiveness of the changes based on the Signals and Systems Concept Inventory (SSCI) published by Buck et al. Using the SSCI in a pre- post-test format, we quantified the gain in concept understanding that the students get from this new classroom format. It also contains examples of in-class exercises applying signal generation, convolution, filtering, modulation, frequency analysis and other areas to help students better understand the concepts. This new approach has now been used for two years (offered once per year) and the results from each year are compared. In addition, the gains from this method are compared to ‘typical’ results reported in the literature.


Signals and Systems is a course traditionally taught early in most electrical engineering programs. A review of textbooks typically used shows a strong mathematical prerequisite. Although most texts have started to incorporate Web based and/or Matlab® exercises, they seem to be intended to supplement the class and not be the focus of lessons. For example, Hanselman3 has an excellent series of demonstrations. Most texts today offer similar tools either on the web or on a CD4,5.

However, many students learn best through problem-based learning exercises. As a result, they struggle with the traditional lecture format, even when supplemented by demonstrations. In 2004, was decided to convert the class from lecture format to more of a problem-based learning format. Since this class is only offered in the fall, this transition will take several years.

In order to support these changes, a studio format was implemented for the class in which a computer laboratory was used for real-time computer instruction as part of the content of every

Greene, C. (2007, June), Studio Based Instruction In Signals And Systems Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2275

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