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Systems engineering design of engineering education: A case of an embedded systems course

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4 Author(s)
Walid Balid ; Faculty of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Aleppo, Syria ; Imad Alrouh ; Abdulrhman Hussian ; Mahmoud Abdulwahed

Systems and Cybernetics can be found elsewhere in natural and engineering sciences. Control systems methods (technical cybernetics) are the nerve of the industrial revolution; they have recently penetrated some social sciences, especially economics and finance. However, the methods are seldom used for quantitative and analytical analysis in pedagogy. Simplified quantitative dynamical models of learning are developed, namely open and closed loop learning. The models are analysed and their implications are highlighted. The models are then used as a basis of describing two modes of lecturing, open and closed loop. It is shown that closed loop learning is superior to open loop learning. Closed loop learning is stable, e.g., learning objectives can be met, and it is robust, e.g., it is bridging the gap between low profile students and their average peers. The open loop learning model is mapped to the classical passive teacher-learner approach, which is classically followed in engineering education. In an engineering approach, the mathematically analysed closed loop learning model was empirically implemented using two modern and pedagogically stressed practices: 1) problem/project-based learning (PBL); and 2) formative assessment (FA). PBL is particularly suitable for engineering education because engineering itself is inherently experiential. PBL plays as vehicle for knowledge construction. FA plays as a method of closing the loop around the PBL approach in accordance to the developed mathematical model. To evaluate the differences in learning outcomes (if any) in accordance to the hypothesized open- and closed-loop learning models, a case study on the teaching and learning of an embedded system laboratory course was conducted. The students were divided into equivalent groups: experimental and control. The control group students were taught the lab in the classical way (open-loop), e.g., attending the lab session only. The experimental group was taught with the PBL + FA- approach (closed-loop), where they have been assigned problems to solve during and after each laboratory session. The solutions were discussed and corrected by the lecturer and feedback was sent to the students. As a part of the FA, the experimental group students were asked to prepare for evaluation quizzes each week to measure the impact of the assignments and preparation benefit. After four laboratory sessions, both groups were examined unexpectedly. The experimental group students outperformed significantly the control group students. Statistical analysis of the exam have shown statistically significant difference and the results verified empirically the closed-loop learning model hypothesis. Additional exam was conducted a year later after the course end to measure the long-term retention, again the experimental group students have significantly outperformed the control group students. The results showed that a Systems Engineering design via a pedagogically rooted didactic reform could lead to radical enhancement of the learning outcomes. The lecturer observed significant engagement and motivation enhancement for the experimental group students. Furthermore, the students' survey has shown better attitude of the experimental group students towards the subject. Discussions of constraints of implementing the closed-loop learning model are provided.

Published in:

Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE), 2012 IEEE International Conference on

Date of Conference:

20-23 Aug. 2012