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Teaching an Electrical Circuits Course Online

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Online Teaching

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1464.1 - 26.1464.16



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Paper Authors


Carlotta A. Berry Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Carlotta A. Berry is an associate professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She is the director of the multidisciplinary minor in robotics and co-director of the Rose building undergraduate diversity scholarship and professional development program. She has been the President of the Technical Editor Board for the ASEE Computers in Education Journal since 2012. She is a member of ASEE, IEEE, NSBE, and Eta Kappa Nu.

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“Teaching an Electrical Circuits Course Online”AbstractDue to the increased demand for MOOCs, online, flipped, and hybrid courses, it is becomingmore important to identify techniques to also teach engineering courses virtually withoutcompromising standards. This paper will present a comparison of teaching an electric systemscourse for non-majors online and in a face to face classroom. It will provide a motivation forthis transition and examine the related literature for teaching engineering courses online. It willalso detail the challenges and lessons learned in transitioning an engineering course with anintegral laboratory component to an online format. In order to measure the effectiveness of thenew format, the assessment will examine student mastery of the course objectives as measuredby several instruments including homework, exams, quizzes, and labs and course evaluations.There will also be qualitative data presented in the form of student evaluations and end of coursesurveys. Finally, based upon the results of the analysis recommendations will be provided forbest practices in teaching circuits online.Electrical systems is a sophomore-level introductory course in DC and AC circuits. This coursecovers topics such as Kirchhoff’s laws, operational amplifiers, Thevenin equivalents,superposition, phasor analysis, and complex power. This course is a cornerstone in theengineering educational program for several disciplines. It has a calculus and physics pre-requisites and is typically required early in the students’ academic career. A key part ofmastering the concepts in this course is the integration of a laboratory component to demonstratereal world application of the concepts presented. The laboratory assignments typically involve abreadboard, resistors, capacitors, inductors, operational amplifiers, function generators, powersupplies, multimeters, and oscilloscopes. Due to the required laboratory assignments, there weresome challenges in transitioning from bench top lab instruments to laptop virtual instruments andthese will be discussed.The motivation for this paper was to examine the efficacy of offering an electrical systemscourse online compared to the face to face course. The motivation for offering an online versionof the course was to meet the student demand. This course is offered at a primarilyundergraduate engineering school with very few summer courses. Since most students haveinternships, co-ops or research opportunities in the summer time and they also have a desire toget ahead in the curriculum, offering this course online was the ideal solution. However, it isextremely important that student performance in the course is not compromised by moving to theonline format.The author has taught math online for 5 years and taught this course in a face to face format for 8years and online for two years. As part of the assessment, the student performance on the courseobjectives will be compared for the two formats. There will also be an analysis of the qualitativeand quantitative metrics based upon the end of course evaluations and other surveys. Basedupon the results of the analysis, the instructor will make recommendations or best practices fortransitioning and engineering course with an integral lab component to an online format.Index Terms – circuits, electrical engineering education, online learning 1Sample ReferencesEnriquez, A. “Assessing the effectiveness of dual delivery mode in an online introductory circuits analysis course,” in Proceedings of Annual Conference and Exposition of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Jun. 2010.Holdhusen, M., “A comparison of engineering graphics courses delivered face to face, online, via synchronous distance education, and in hybrid formats,” in Proc. Proceedings of Annual Conference and Exposition of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Jun. 2009.LaMeres, B.J. & Plumb, C., "Comparing Online to Face-to-Face Delivery of Undergraduate Digital Circuits Content", IEEE Transactions on Education, Vol. 57, No. 2, May 2014.May, V.; Brady, P., "Lessons learned teaching engineering online to architecture and construction management students," Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2003, vol.2, no., pp.F4F, 8-12 Vol.2, 5-8 Nov. 2003Romanowski, C.J., Raj, R.K., & Ramkumar, S.M., "Successful practices for online computing, engineering, and technology courses," Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2011, vol., no., pp.T1C-1, T1C-6, 12-15 Oct. 2011Stassen, M., Blaustein, M., Rogers, R. and Shih, M., “Undergraduate student outcomes: A comparison of online and face-to-face courses,” Report from the Comparative Outcomes Subcommittee for the University of Massachusetts Amherst Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Online Learning, Jul. 2007 [Online]. Available:, C.R.; Pao-Lo Liu; Tang, W., "Work in progress - a fully online bachelor of electrical engineering degree," Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), vol., no., pp.F1H-7,F1H-8, 22-25 Oct. 2008. 2

Berry, C. A. (2015, June), Teaching an Electrical Circuits Course Online Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24801

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