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The Aerospace Institute of The Aerospace Corporation is developing an electronic classroom (E-class) concept whereby laptop computers are used for the student-content interface, eliminating the need for hardcopy course notebooks and allowing for a more interactive student learning environment. This interactive method is especially useful for space systems education and instruction involving hands-on tool usage and team projects. The objectives, procedures, design and development, and application experiences for this concept are documented herein. The E-class concept is part of a larger Aerospace Institute plan to make available synchronous and asynchronous learning materials via electronic media. The broader scope of this effort includes the recording and broadcast of live classes, the creation of a course content repository for anytime, anywhere corporate Web access, and the E-class concept discussed. Students benefit by being exposed to hands-on usage of principal system engineering tools and processes in a team-project environment. The integration of this interactive approach within the context of space system engineering instruction provides immediate demonstration and reinforcement of principal concepts, procedures, and tool usage benefits and issues. These benefits are exemplified by application of E-class methods to a Space Systems Concept Development course. There are other factors that play into the corporation's consideration of changing the current instructor lecture via course-hook-based instruction, using a single computer/projector system, to a classroom populated by student laptop computers. Besides the interactive advantages mentioned above, the E-class concept permits students to view and annotate course materials on their individual laptops, browse in real-time to research resources online, and work on single or group exercises. The institute's Training and Development Representatives and instructors also benefit by allowing students to take test- s and complete evaluation forms online. These capabilities provide significant advantages over the current classroom instructional format. There are, of course, trade-offs realized by applying the E-class concept in terms of the workload on the administrative and technical staffs. On the one hand, less time is spent on document creation, editing, and reproduction. The E-class concept, however, requires computer skills, software, and keyboard time in excess of the traditional course delivery method. The E-class concept, as implemented by the Aerospace Corporation, consists of a dedicated server, individual student laptop computers, and power and network connectivity via distributed classroom floor-wired hubs. This hub arrangement allows pod-configuration seating of the students that facilitates a team working-group environment. The concept is mobile between several candidate classrooms. Student computers are set up in preparation for each class and torn down and stored so that classrooms may be scheduled for other purposes, as well.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2009