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Virtual Community of Practice: Electric Circuits

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1359.1 - 24.1359.11



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Paper Authors

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Kenneth A. Connor Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Lisa Huettel Duke University

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Dr. Lisa G. Huettel is an associate professor of the practice in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University where she also serves as associate chair and director of Undergraduate Studies for the department. She received a B.S. in Engineering Science from Harvard University and earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Duke University. Her research interests are focused on engineering education, curriculum and laboratory development, and applications of statistical signal processing.

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Virtual Community of Practice: Electric CircuitsDisseminating effective practices for engineering education requires developing pedagogicalcommunities that bring together faculty from many institutions. Through an NSF-funded ASEEeffort aimed at facilitating faculty development in research –based instruction, we led an onlineVirtual Community of Practice (VCP) around the teaching of introductory Electric Circuits. TheVCP comprised 20 faculty members who were broadly diverse in terms of geography,institutional characteristics, and teaching experience. Meetings were held using Adobe Connect,with materials shared and discussions held through an online portal built with Open Atrium. Thisplatform carried many advantages – such as allowing a large group to interact and view acommon presentation, while also facilitating smaller break-out groups – but it also posed logisticissues inherent into any use of technology for group interactions. Leaders of the circuits VCP –along with VCPs on other topics in electrical engineering – were trained by a Leadership VCP inadvance of its sessions.The Electric Circuits VCP comprised 9 weekly 90-minute sessions, each including learningobjectives and an assignment for participants. Breakout groups within each session promotedinteractions among subsets of the participants; these were critical for encouraging broadparticipation, with each breakout group reporting back to the full VCP afterward. Pre-plannedtopics included (1) Introduction to the Circuits VCP, (2) Overview of Research-basedInstructional Approaches, (3) Learning Objectives and Bloom’s Taxonomy, (4) StudentMotivation, (5) Teams, and (6) & (7) Making the Classroom More Interactive. The topics forsessions (8) and (9) were developed by our VCP community during preceding weeks: (8)Simulation and Hands-On Learning, Assessing Impact; (9) Great Ideas that Flopped. In additionto the weekly meetings of the entire VCP, participants interacted via ad hoc small-groupmeetings, email and polling to collect opinions and ideas, and additional material provided aftereach session.Nearly all participants reported that they are making significant changes in their Circuits coursesbased on their VCP experience. Topics that elicited the most interest from the participants, basedon their post-VCP feedback, were: (1) Flipped Classrooms; (2) Hands-On Learning based onInexpensive Measurement Hardware; (3) Assessment. Participants are also developing topics forcollaborative research and a workshop to share what they have learned with faculty from otherinstitutions. Leaders in implementing flipped classrooms, MOOCs, and other new pedagogyhave also been invited to work with the group both offline and during regular meetings.The VCP model proved to be effective at establishing a diverse pedagogical community, withoutthe resource and time constraints of regular in-person meetings. There are still some limitations,however. Those faculty who are particularly dedicated to undergraduate instruction – and thusare the best candidates to participate in a VCP –often have limited time for activities that maynot have immediate impact on their daily responsibilities. Also, interactions in large onlinegroups may not suffice to promote a strong working relationship. Based on the personalexperience of the authors, a substantive collaboration requires regular online face-to-faceinteraction followed by additional electronic exchanges as materials are finalized. Despite theselimitations, our initial implementation of the VCP model provides a guide for other groups tocreate similar virtual communities for other aspects of engineering education.

Connor, K. A., & Huettel, L. (2014, June), Virtual Community of Practice: Electric Circuits Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23292

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