An Active-Learning Teaching Model for Engineering Instruction Based

 on HP Mobile Technology

Nancy Warter-Perez and Jane Dong

                                Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, California State University, Los Angeles

In Fall 2005, California State University, Los Angeles received a HP Teaching Initiative Grant to develop a novel active-learning teaching model using Tablet PCs in classroom instruction. The key component of this model is small in-class collaborative design projects created to reinforce lecture concepts and train students on the design process.  Another important component of this model is to fully exploit the capabilities of Tablet PCs by creating dynamic interactive lectures. 

This new teaching model can be applied to any course where computer aided or assisted design is an essential component.  We are currently applying the model in the redesign of two core computer engineering courses, Computer Logic Design and Multimedia Networking.



The fundamental learning and teaching issues that this project addresses are how to effectively deliver course content, incorporate active learning into an engineering curriculum, and prepare students to successfully complete collaborative design projects.  In engineering courses, it is often difficult to foster an active learning environment beyond soliciting student input during lecture. 

HP Tablet PCs combined with wireless networking enable students to freely move around the classroom and still have access to design software and on-line resources.  This allows teams of students to solve in-class problems collaborating both face-to-face and via their Tablet PCs.  Therefore, using Tablet PCs, students can acquire valuable experience on engineering design through in-class collaborative projects, which helps deepen their understanding of course theory and better prepare them for the industry design process.


Active-learning Teaching Model

In previous quarters, EE442 was taught using PowerPoint, while EE347 was taught using traditional whiteboard presentation. No matter what presentation method was used, the delivery of knowledge was mainly passive, with very little interaction.

Through the project, an active learning teaching model has been developed to increase the student-professor and student-student interaction.  Using this model, student-centered learning is promoted. The course material delivery is more dynamic using interactive examples, and the course concepts are reinforced using in-class collaborative projects. Students are divided into groups to work on assigned projects. Interaction with with other teammates and the Professor can be achieved easily using Tablet PCs. Real-time feedback can be provided by the Professor to address student's questions, discussions and other issues related to the design projects.


Implementation (technology)

A number of technologies is being used to support teaching and learning. First, Tablet PC based presentation and note-taking software packages (including Classroom Presenter, Windows Journals, inking-over features of MS Word and PowerPoint, etc.) have been exploited and used in classroom instruction.  Second, networking management tools like EagleLink is adopted to allow the instructor to interact with any student easily. In addition, a real-time polling software has been developed to facilitate learning outcome assessment.



Impact on Teaching

Using the proposed active learning model, the expected impacts on teaching include:

        Improved classroom instruction efficiency--Tablet PC based dynamic presentation help to bring out the best of both teaching delivery systems, presentation slides and interactive blackboard delivery.

        A shift from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning.

        More interaction among students, more active classroom atmosphere.

        A better solution to enhance students' design ability using Tablet PC based in-class projects.

        More efficient and unbiased assessment of the students' learning using developed real-time polling software.


Impact on Student Learning

The impact of the proposed active-learning model on student learning can be summarized as follows:

        Students' satisfaction is significantly increased. The students' satisfaction survey conducted in Fall 2005 showed that almost 100% of the students expressed "Tablet PC is very helpful in learning". Majority of the students founds the "Tablet-PC based project is very impressive and very helpful in improving design skills".

        Students' design ability is enhanced. Comparison of the project performance revealed that completion rate of the term projects is increased by more than 10% with the new teaching model.

        Students' understanding on course material is improved. The average performance on exams is better in Fall quarter 2005 than the previous quarters.

        Students' presentation skills and team skills are significantly improved. Class presentation performance showed that the students become more confident and more organized in presenting their design.

The following graph illustrates the setting of the collaborative design projects. Students are grouped together to complete part of the design process and conduct system integration as well as testing. The design results can be easily demonstrated to the entire class using Tablet PC. Instructors interact with the students to provide immediate feedback to any questions and observed problems. In addition, design solutions can be shared and interactively updated.

The following picture shows students working in groups.


Quick Facts

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology, Engineering and Technology A342, 323-343-4470, Fax:323-343-4547

Courses Impacted:

        EE347 -- Computer Logic Design

        EE442 -- Multimedia Networking

# Students Impacted: 42 during Fall and Winter Quarters. Estimate 80 students per year.

# Faculty Involved: two faculty members in Computer Engineering, Dr. Warter-Perez and Dr. Dong, are responsible for the redesign of the computer architecture and computer network curriculum, respectively.

Sample Course Material

Sample Student Work

EE 442 Handout

EE 442 Graded Homework

EE 442 Class Notes Example

EE 442 Graded Project Report


Contact Us

PI: Nancy Warter-Perez

Department of Electrical and computer Engineering


Phone: 323-343-5927


Co-PI: Jane Dong

Department of Electrical and computer Engineering


Phone: 323-343-4581





References & Publications

Links to useful resources:

The project overview has been published in CSULA Campus Newsletter. Currently, the PIs are submitting paper to present the teaching and learning impacts of the proposed active-learning model to 2006 ASEE C PSW SECTION CONFERENCE.


This project supported in part by an HP Technology for Teaching grant.

This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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