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Topical Learning As An Outcomes Assessment Tool

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Accreditation and Related Issues in ECE

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1314.1 - 9.1314.8



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Paper Authors

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Tom Thomas

author page

Martin Parker

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

Session No. 2532

Topical Learning as an Outcomes Assessment Tool

Tom Thomas, Martin Parker University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama


The University of South Alabama (USA) Electrical and Computer Engineering Department teaches an introductory electrical circuits class at the sophomore level, in which it is important that certain critical topics be mastered for future use in the curriculum. Historically, the class was infamous for drop/failure rates in excess of 50%. A restructured class format was found to be effective, reducing the failure rate to less than 10% over four semesters. A population of 30 students volunteered to participate in a study in spring semester 2003. Students filled out questionnaires on three representative topics in USA’s EG 220 electric circuits class. After a topic was covered, a homework sequence was assigned and a problem session was conducted in which the students were encouraged to ask questions. A questionnaire was given to each student in which they rated their level of understanding. A quiz was then given. The data indicates a high correlation between perceived understanding and quiz grades after the student has had the opportunity to reinforce each topic by working homework problems and asking questions. The instructor can quickly modify the presentation of course material to emphasize areas in which students are having difficulty. Students having particular difficulty are identified early and matched with a supplementary instructor. It was determined that course material offered in this manner significantly increased the success rate of the students without compromising the level of education.


The University of South Alabama College of Engineering has five ABET-accredited undergraduate programs.1 At the freshman and sophomore level, there are a number of service classes that are taught to students in more than one program. Electrical Circuits (EG 220) is a service class taken by students in Mechanical, Computer, and Electrical Engineering. The only prerequisite is one semester of calculus. The class is offered every semester with an average enrollment of 50 students. A faculty member from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) typically teaches EG 220. The class is a prerequisite for all other ECE classes

The class has typically been taught in a three-hour lecture format with two or three classroom tests and a final exam. In the past, there has often been a bimodal distribution of grades, indicating that one group of students was doing well and another group of students was doing significantly more poorly. The drop and failure rates have been high, sometimes approaching 50%. To try to explain this situation, discussions were held with students who had done well in EG 220 and students who had done poorly in EG 220. Although not a formal study, some

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Thomas, T., & Parker, M. (2004, June), Topical Learning As An Outcomes Assessment Tool Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13345

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