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# Engineering Classrooms Take a Flip

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It is strict requirement of time
1/22/2014 1:25:47 PM
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This is actually a strict requirement of this time, where the students are to learn so many technologies in limited amount of time, and the technology is also allowing to have access to teach in more better way, in countries like India and China the population is so huge that individual attention in the classrooms is not possible, also the class sizes are also very large, this kind of flipped classes will be allowing students to spend time based on their requirement and availability. The teacher will not be keeping themselves busy in repeated tasks instead they will get time to do something new in research.

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"It's Showtime!"
1/22/2014 1:36:12 PM
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While the "flipped" classroom idea has a lot of merit, I see a couple of problems:

1.  Many engineering faculty have no experience in the Real World.  Anecdotal evidence suggest many wouldn't know which end of a soldering iron to grab.  The last time I looked, faculty at most USA universities were recruited and promoted on the basis of publishing papers and bringing in research grants.  Teaching in general?  A far third, if not a negative.  Practical engineering experience?  Merely a distraction.

[Aside: For that matter, the last time I looked very few engineering faculty had had any instruction in teaching methods.  They were expected to follow the bad examples of their own teachers.  But that's a separate issue.]

2.  Many students have trouble grasping the fundamentals.  You need a solid foundation in the fundamentals (how things are supposed to work) before dealing with the complexities of how things actually work and why they don't.  For example, in a first course in circuits, students learn Ohm's Law and Kirchhoff's Laws and apply them to simple circuits with resistances, capacitances, inductances, voltage sources, and current sources.  In real life, there's no such component as a resistance.  There's a resistor, which is a complex circuit with resistance, capacitance, inductance, and mutual inductance, all of them non-linear and temperature-dependent.  There's no such thing as an ideal voltage or current source. You can't hit students with these complexities before they've mastered the fundamentals -- they'll flip.

3.  A top-quality teacher lecturing a reasonably-sized group of students is IMO still the best way to get material across.  A top-quality teacher notices if the audience is engaged, and sets pace accordingly.  A top-quality teacher has prepared excellent examples ahead of time, so that examples worked on the chalk board (yes, still the best teaching mechanism) always work except when deliberately wrong to drive home a point.  A top-quality teacher sees his or her job as show business, and wants to make sure that the students get their money's worth.  Needless to say, this takes a lot of time and such a teacher probably won't get tenure.

With a top-quality teacher, there's a big difference between live teaching and a droning head on a TV.  It's the difference between the excitement of live theatre with an excellent cast, and a TV show.  OTOH, a mediocre teacher isn't going to do better than high-quality recordings.

JMO/YMMV

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Age of Online Self-Learning
1/22/2014 1:59:31 PM
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Yes, there has been a trend in the last several years where learning material and even hands-on training is available online. With the number of people interested in education, this trend will likely continue. Soon you will be able to learn absolutely everything using outside-the-classroom resources. What is left for the classroom is to help the students achieve this self-learning mastery, as well as to verify that the learning actually happened.

One specific example is learning how to code online. You can learn practically any programming language without stepping away from your web browser. Students wishing to learn how to write and verify HDL code for ASIC and FPGA designs can now code online. See Max's post from a few days ago: Want to Join Me in the EDA Playground

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Re: "It's Showtime!"
1/22/2014 2:02:02 PM
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Thanks very much for jumping into the conversation, and you raise some important points.

1. An educational paradigm shift like this does require a redefinition of what an intructor is and what they're expected to do.  If the flipped classroom does become more prevalent, perhaps practical, real-world engineering experience will be seen as more of a priority.  Project-based learning is quickly becoming the focus of pre-college education, so it will be interesting to see if there's a trickle down effect.

2. It is indeed difficult for some (maybe many) to grasp fundamental concepts.  I think it's hoped that even if the "factual" portion of the curriculum does go online, there will still be ways to address these challenges.  Learning systems can certainly be built with the capability of connecting students with other students, students with tutors, and students with their instructors.  The key is getting instructors to use a diverse range of media to present materials, and being available to clarify, question, etc.

3. I totally agree that there's nothing like an amazing, engaging lecturer.  I had a number of them as a student, and really tried to do a decent job when I taught. If you've got a smaller group of students, it's completely doable (and really a lot of fun).  In a group of 300-400, it's exhausting for the instructor, and a good number of the students will fall through the cracks because they just don't learn by listening and watching.

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Re: Age of Online Self-Learning
1/22/2014 2:03:56 PM
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Learning to code is a good example.  In-class time could be used to compare notes, discuss challenges, etc.

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Re: It is strict requirement of time
1/22/2014 2:06:54 PM
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International reach is certainly a benefit of this, and many educators hope that their students will take advantage of opportunities to collaborate online with students and instructors in other parts of the world.

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Re: "It's Showtime!"
1/22/2014 2:32:21 PM
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@Betajet..... a lot of good points there, but my 2c worth....I agree that the fundamentals are important, but take your example of Ohm's Law - once you have a basic idea of how it works, playing around with meters, power sources and resistors is going to drive it home much quicker than any amount of theory.   And (speaking from personal experience) if you encounter something practical that you don't quite get, it's going to be a huge incentive to read up on the theory of how it works.   And if letting the smoke out of a sacrifical resistor teaches you about power ratings, so much the better - I've met so many people who knew ohm's law but hadn't a clue about power ratings.

And as for soldering, though I appreciate that many engineers never need to get near a soldering iron, I can't see how you'd learn electronics without one.  There's been a lot of discussion on this recently:

http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1319212

http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1320221

http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1319658

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1/22/2014 4:44:09 PM
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They should have done this 30 years ago with video tape. I did my best in school when they handed out a sylabus at the beginning of the course with all the chapters and homework. I could work at my own pace and fit it in my schedule with my other classes. I ended up a week ahead and the class was a review of what I had learned on my own. I did my worst with the classes where I copied most of the course material off the black board and the teacher would post the reading and homework assignments at the end of each class. Students and engineers should be able to study on their own and just get help with what they are having trouble with. It's time to ditch the overpriced live lecture model of education.

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The change is never as big as articles might suggest
1/22/2014 5:54:29 PM
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New teaching alternatives that have become available, such as online tutorials, of course should be exploited. But the truth is, none of these new ideas were lost on educators even before.

When the engineering classrooms are large, typically Freshman year, you also had smaller recitation sessions and smaller labs. That's when you got the one on one. Think about it. How can that prof, in front of a class of 100 students (Freshmen, I never had any class that size after Freshman year) ever expect to dedicate "quality time" to individual students, in a supposedly upside down classroom?

Can't be done. So in fact, perhaps we're saying that the large classes will be replaced by online tutorials, and the emphasis will instead go to smaller recitation sessions, typically taught by graduate students, and labs, also taught by graduate students.

There's only so much time the actual prof can e expected to dedicate to each student, no matter how you twist the model around.

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Re: "It's Showtime!"
1/22/2014 6:01:06 PM
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Hey David, I keep wondering about this soldering adeptness you mention. One of my latest work projects has to do with applying and modifying encryption and authentication techniques. Much as I've tried, my trusty soldering gun is of no use.

Oh well, huh? All in the day's work, for a EE!

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