Hands-On Learning With The Analog Discovery 2

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Next week we will be attending the Annual ASEE (American Society of Engineering Education) Conference and hosting several workshops. Each of these workshops are taught by a professor who has seen the impact of hands-on learning in their classroom. Hands-on learning has been a topic of discussion at many ECEDHA and ASEE conferences, and this year we have noticed a focus on retaining students and particularly attracting a diverse student base. In the article titled “Matched Assessment Data Set for Experiment-Centric Pedagogy Implementation in 13 HBCU ECE Programs,” 12 Electrical and Computer Engineering professors present their research on the use of Analog Discovery 2 to study the effectiveness of increased hands-on, experiment-centric learning for students of color. The following article is a summary of their findings.    

The use of experiment-centric instructional methods has been shown to have a very positive effect on student learning outcomes.  However, very little research has been done to test the effectiveness of these methods for students of color.  That is why in 2013, 13 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) received a National Science Foundation grant to participate in a study to determine the effectiveness of Analog Discovery 2 on student learning outcomes.  The study took place during the 2015/16 academic year, and involved undergraduate students enrolled in electrical and computer engineering courses.  Due to the portability of the Analog Discovery 2, students had multiple opportunities throughout the semester to use them in a variety of settings, including a traditional classroom setting, a lab setting, student-lead study groups outside of the classroom, and on their own as part of individual homework assignments.  Data collected from students and instructors participating in the study, showed that the use of Analog Discovery 2 had a very positive effect on student attitudes and learning outcomes.   

According to the article, the variables of interest in this study were: 

  • Effect of pre-requisites of learning (attitude, motivation, interest in learning engineering)
  • Immediate affective outcomes of learning (impact on recall, use for in-course problem solving, and module specific knowledge), and
  • Potential impact on long-term outcomes (transfer of skills to new content, new settings, and retention of problem solving skills). In addition, the researchers tracked a series of selected (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) ABET indicators, via self-report, pre to post.

The researchers concluded six major findings from the study: 

Ability to Use in Various Settings: The portability of the Analog Discovery 2 made them easy to use in the traditional classroom setting, the lab setting, and as part of take-home assignments.  Application: The more that students used the Analog Discovery 2, the better their learning outcomes were.  Also, the more that instructors focused on real-world problem solving while using the Analog Discovery 2, the better the student learning outcomes.   

Instructional Modalities: Students reported that the hands-on learning they experienced while using the Analog Discovery 2 helped them to “translate the written word to reality.”  The data also showed that the more familiar an instructor was with the Analog Discovery 2, the better the student learning outcomes.   

Experimental Learning and Pre-requisites to Learning: The use of Analog Discovery 2 contributed to increases in students’ pre-learning outcomes.  This means that students experienced increased motivation to learn, increased confidence in their ability to learn, and an increased feeling that what they were learning was important.   

Of the students who participated in the study, 83% reported that the use of Analog Discovery 2 was vital to helping them learn.    

ABET Indicators:  The data showed that Analog Discovery 2 helped students experience a moderate increase in ABET(Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) characteristics.  The students participating in this study were undergraduate students, and researchers speculated that greater increases in ABET characteristics may be seen among students in capstone or upper-level courses.   

Benefits and Barriers: In terms of benefits, students reported increased interest in engineering, easier access to lab-style learning, increased problem-solving ability, increased creativity, increased confidence, and increased real-world knowledge.  Students in introductory courses felt that the use of the Analog Discovery 2 helped increase their interest in engineering as a profession, and students in more advanced courses felt that Analog Discovery 2 helped them practice solving real-world problems.  Instructors felt that the Analog Discovery 2 were very flexible, and helped them with their experiment-centric teaching methods.    

When it came to barriers, students reported that it was hard to share the Analog Discovery 2 with partners, and wanted their own Analog Discovery 2 to take home.  Instructors and students expressed the need to have more introductory materials in order to be able to better teach students how to use the Analog Discovery 2 . Students and professors also expressed issues with using the Analog Discovery 2 with Mac computers, and not all students had their own laptops to use with the Analog Discovery 2 .   

Overall, the results of this study show that the use of the Analog Discovery 2 is a fantastic way to implement experiment-centric teaching methods, and the continued use of Analog Discovery 2 at these 13 HBCUs has continued to show positive student learning outcomes.  Students reported that they “wanted their own”  Analog Discovery 2 , and that “[The board] allowed me the opportunity to apply the information provided in the course which then helped me to retain and better learn the information.”  Students also reported that “[The board] allowed me to work independently, leading to self-reliance and direction” and “connected my knowledge to real world applications.”  Professors appreciated the flexibility of the Analog Discovery 2 and the ability to use them in various instructional contexts, and commented that “all students should have one; they need to be able to take it home.”  Both students and instructors agree that Analog Discovery 2 are an excellent tool for implementing experiment-centric teaching methods, and will continue to play a vital role in creating future generations of engineers.        

More information about the Analog Discovery 2 can be found here. 

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