Course: Introduction to Electrical Engineering I (required major course)
Students: 20 | Sophomores | electrical and computer engineering majors
Interest level: moderate
• Email- announcements and deadlines
• YouCanBookMe - scheduling office hours
• Personal website + Google Sheets: Course material
• Microsoft Surface 3 + oCam screen recorder: Screencasts
• 123D Circuits: Breadboard simulations
• DoCircuits: Circuit simulations
• Typewritten skeleton notes + document camera + chalkboard
• Grades were sent manually to students 3 times throughout the semester. They can request their grade at any time.
• Before midterm: blended classroom: pre-class assignments included (1) reading a textbook section or watching a screencast video (<6 minutes), (2) solving a practice problem, and (3) sending the answer to me via email.
- Participation was encouraged through grading the pre-class assignments and through building up the lecture on what students have learnt the night before. Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks several students were not able to email me their answers. In their defense, the assignments were not sent to them in a timely manner and usually lacked structure and adequate guidance. I decided to discontinue this format.
• After midterm: traditional lecturing using typewritten skeleton notes, document camera, and chalkboard.
- I continued to make videos for challenging topics to provide additional guidance and for rigorous problems to demonstrate a detailed problem solving process.
Feedback from exit slips
I assessed the effectiveness of the blended format in the first couple of weeks using exit slips. The majority of the students liked the screencasts but they disliked that they did not include enough practice problems. The majority also felt confused about how to submit the pre-class assignments.
"How to turn HW is confusing"
"More practice problems on the screencast"
"I don't like that we don't get extra notes"
Official mid-semester student feedback/reaction (selected)
On one hand, students liked the screencasts and the in-class practice problems. On the other hand, they disliked the lack of traditional lecturing and note packets. After receiving the mid-semester evaluation, I explained that the only way in such a fast-paced course to spend more time practicing in-class problems and working in groups on HW problems is to transfer the first exposure to information outside the classroom. Surprisingly, only two students recommended that I stop doing pre-class assignments.
• 15 students recommended that I continue to offer screencasts.
• 2 students recommended that I stop using the blended classroom model.
• 2 students recommended teaching the material using conventional chalk board methods.
• "Start doing higher level problems together in class if time permits. Maybe at least one a week to wrap concepts together."
- I like the idea of frequently wrapping concepts together. The challenge is finding the time to do so. It would have been possible is the blended format worked out, saving us some time for active in-class activities.
• "More detailed notes" - "Note packets" - "Handouts giving the steps and formulas for what we have covered" - "Give out written solutions" - "Provide a topic list or a study guide"
- I made a mistake by thinking that the students in this class would require less guidance because it's a required course for their major. I deliberately avoided giving them written or skeleton notes thinking that this would encourage them to learn on their own, but the course too rigorous and very fast-paced for the average student to be able to do that. I will use skeleton notes and exam study guides the next time I teach this class.
• "I wish we kept the HW after checking them in class in order to redo them again and have time to do it right."
- I really liked this: students work on HW problems, we go over them together in class, and then they can redo them if needed and submit a HW package every week. It provided instant feedback and the opportunity for the students to revisit the learning objectives which were not met. The challenge was some students did not put real effort in the first attempt and chose to copy the answers in class. I'm thinking about different ways to motivate the students to do their best on the first attempt and not wait for the answers.
• "Often races through HW and leaves little time to understand lecture"
- This is probably true. One of the students suggested that I create screencasts for the HW solution to save class time for more important things. It will be time consuming but worthwhile.
Official end-of-semester student feedback (selected)
Several students requested note packets and using a traditional lecturing format. There were no questions in the form about the blended format. There were numerous requests for more practice problems, more review packages, and more worked out problems. The end-of-semester mini project was time consuming and I was not able to prepare an end-of-semester questionnaire about specific pedagogical techniques.
- I will be the course coordinator of this class the next semester and I plan on doing few small changes:
1- The lab assignments will be rewritten with clear objectives and clear pre-lab assignments.
2- Skeleton and partially-filled notes will be used for most lessons.
3- Exam study guides will be developed and will include the clear list of learning objectives.
4- I will try to record screencasts of HW solutions. It's time consuming so I might end up doing them for complex HW problems only.
The good stuff
"[He] asked for input and made changes according to that input."
"He wanted constant feedback on how the class could be improved."
"We could all feel that learning was the most important objective [for] the professor."