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Teaching Electric Circuits Via The Internet

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.939.1 - 6.939.7

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Paper Authors

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James Svoboda Clarkson University

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The Electronic Teaching Assistant (ETA) is a computer tool designed to aid both in teaching and in learning about electric circuits. The ETA consists of html documents containing java applets and so is ideally suited to the Internet. This paper presents the educational objectives (both teaching and learning) of the ETA and describes how the ETA accomplishes those objectives. The ETA consists of three parts: the Electric Circuits Workout, the Circuit Design Lab, and the Interactive Illustrations. The Electric Circuits Workout provides an opportunity to develop and practice circuit analysis skills by presenting exercises similar to quiz or exam problems. The Electric Circuits Workout poses a problem, then accepts and checks the user’s answer. The Circuit Design Lab provides an opportunity for experimentation and design. Each lab exercise presents a circuit together with scrollbars that control the values of important circuit parameters. This provides an opportunity for "What if..." explorations as the effects of changing parameter values are observed. The Circuit Design Lab also provides an opportunity for design exercises. The Interactive Illustrations provide an opportunity to change some aspect of an illustration and observe the consequence. Such illustrations emphasize the connection between concepts. For example, one of the Interactive Illustrations shows a phasor and the corresponding sinusoid. The student interacts with the illustration by changing the phasor using the computer mouse. The Interactive Illustrations responds by changing the sinusoid appropriately, emphasizing the relationship between phasor and sinusoid. The ETA has been class tested for two years. The goal of the ETA has evolved as a result of that testing. Initially the goal was very simple: to use the Internet to help motivated students learn about circuits. Later the ETA was organized into its three parts by observing which applets had been successful and identifying their common characteristics. In addition to helping students, the ETA saved time for instructors by providing homework problems that are graded automatically, exam problems ready to cut and paste into exams or quizzes and demonstrations ready to be incorporated into lectures. Observing that the ETA benefited instructors as well as students changed the intended audience and, correspondingly, the goals of the ETA. The ETA now has two goals: to reduce the time and effort required of the instructor and to help the students learn about circuits. This is an important change since the ETA is most successful when instructors enthusiastically incorporate it into their course.

Svoboda, J. (2001, June), Teaching Electric Circuits Via The Internet Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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