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The impact of a scientific computing prerequisite on student performance in a linear systems course

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2 Author(s)
Warren, S. ; Dept. of Electr. & Comput. Eng., Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS, USA ; Day, D.

Programming can be an important part of a linear systems (a.k.a., signal and systems) course, as programming projects help to solidify mathematical concepts and provide students with a means to visualize and interpret signal and coefficient behavior. However, students often struggle with programming, leading to frustration that minimizes learning and worsens student attitudes toward the material. To address that need, the Kansas State University (KSU) Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Department recently added a required course, ECE 540 - Applied Scientific Computing, to the ECE curricula to ensure more overall C programming exposure and to serve as a prerequisite to ECE 512 - Linear Systems and other courses that require programming. This paper presents initial assessments of student preparedness for C programming projects in the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 offerings of ECE 512 following this course prerequisite change. The primary assessment mechanisms are pre- and post-project surveys that address students' proficiency in C, where the survey results are compared to similar surveys offered in prior semesters unaffected by the new course. These analyses indicate greater overall confidence in C programming, a better understanding of the supporting development environments, and an overall improved attitude toward Linear Systems programming projects.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2012

Date of Conference:

3-6 Oct. 2012