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Teaching Digital Logic Design using the GOAL (Guided On-demand Adaptive Learning) System

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Distance and Web-based Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1385.1 - 22.1385.9



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Paper Authors

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Ronald D. Williams P.E. University of Virginia


Joanne Bechta Dugan University of Virginia

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Joanne Bechta Dugan is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Director of the Computer Engineering Program at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on probabilistic assessment of the dependability of computer-based systems. She has developed the Dynamic Fault Tree model, which extends the applicability of fault tree analysis to computer systems. Her research interests include hardware and software reliability engineering, dependable computing, system health management and mathematical modeling using dynamic fault trees, Markov models, and Bayesian networks. Her current focuses on the development of new technologies and engineering approaches to evaluate and improve engineering education, both in traditional classroom setting and in non-traditional on-line settings.

Dr. Dugan holds a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from La Salle University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Duke University.

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Teaching Digital Logic Design using the GOAL (Guided On-demand Adaptive Learning) System The GOAL (Guided On-Demand Adaptive Learning) system combines advances intechnology with advances in our understanding of human learning to teach engineeringconcepts more efficiently. GOAL can improve the efficiency and availability ofengineering instruction both on-demand asynchronous learning and in the traditionalclassroom. This paper describes our use of GOAL to teach concepts in an introductory ECEcourse, Digital Logic Design. Three different topics were developed using GOAL andsubject to trials in the fall 2010 semester. Student participants were divided into threegroups: one attended normal class lectures, one used the GOAL approach and the thirdhad the choice of which to use. All students took the same quizzes and exams to assesslearning. Preliminary results indicate that there was no statistically significant differencein learning among the groups, indicating that GOAL was at least as effective astraditional classroom approaches. However, students using GOAL generally learned thematerial in significantly less time (less than half, on average) and could do so at their ownpace using a style (abstract vs. concrete) tuned to their preference. The topics presented using GOAL were first, an introduction to Boolean algebra andcombinational logic; second an introduction to finite state machines and sequentialsystems and finally, circuits and systems for binary addition (ripple-carry additionthrough carry-lookahead approaches). Each topic is comprised of many concepts, each ofwhich was produced separately. Two different version of each concept were produced,one presenting the material in a theoretical, abstract manner, the other presenting materialin a more concrete, example-driven manner. Students could view either stream ofconcepts (or both) and could switch from one to another at will. GOAL modules are not easy or inexpensive to produce, especially if compared withrecorded lectures or slide presentations with recorded voice channels. The verbalcontent is scripted, recorded in a sound booth, filtered and processed into short segmentsof about a minute’s length. The visual content is developed using Adobe® Flash®,Soundbooth®, Fireworks® and other tools and is carefully synchronized with the audiotrack. It seems to take about a hour’s time to produce a segment of about a minute’slength. Of course, once a segment is developed it can be used infinitely often. Detailed data is collected as the concepts are taught to attain new insight into thelearning process. Student A viewed all the concepts at a single sitting with no pauses orrollbacks, indicating a more reflective approach to learning. Student B paused andrestarted the presentation frequently, and often went back to hear/view a sequence ofconcepts many times. Student C switched back and forth between the abstract andconcrete presentation. Some concepts were repeated more often than others (across allstudents) perhaps indicating that the concept was especially difficult. The gatheringand analysis of such data, along with demographic and academic data (what other courseshas the student taken) can be used to analyze and predict which approach is likely to bemost appropriate or successful for student Z.

Williams, R. D., & Dugan, J. B. (2011, June), Teaching Digital Logic Design using the GOAL (Guided On-demand Adaptive Learning) System Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18537

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