May 2014

Letter from the Editor

John Booske 

Dear ECEDHA Members, Industry Partners, and Colleagues,

Use of instructional technology (IT) for higher education has received extensive attention in last few years, largely for its prospect to improve access to college-level learning at a distance via MOOCs.  However, as articulated in Stanford University’s Professor of Computer Science and Coursera Co-Founder Daphne Koller’s article, the highest quality learning impact exists in the classrooms of resident college students via the flipped or inverted classroom pedagogy.  Improved learning success with flipped instruction has been reported at Stanford, the University of Utah, the University of Florida [1], and numerous other schools. At the University of Wisconsin, 11 of 13 Fall and/or Spring 2012-13 courses taught using flipped or blended instruction in the Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL,[2]) reported significant increases in the percentage of students who received a grade of B or better as compared to conventional lecture methods during previous semesters and 12 of 13 WisCEL courses taught with flipped or blended pedagogy in Spring 2012, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 had substantially lower percentages of students receiving a grade of D, F or dropping the course compared to the same courses offered in traditional ways and settings in the previous four semesters. The experience of flipping a senior signal processing course and the impact on student learning has been described in detail in an article by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Barry Van Veen in the November 2013 issue of the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine [3].

A compelling case for flipping classroom instruction as well as an exceptional resource for those seeking guidance on how to flip your classroom is described in the article by University of Utah ECE Professor and Associate Vice President of Research Cynthia Furse, and further at the website [4]. Other resources for those seeking the benefits (for instructors as well as learners) of flipped and blended instructor include the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s WisCEL website [2] and the online Flipped Classroom Field Guide offered to participants in Coursera [5]. These resources are incredibly important for providing guidance on best practices to follow and worst practices to avoid.  Among the best practices that get the most emphasis are the importance of giving incentives for students to participate in every activity the instructor considers important for learning and the value of taking time to implement a full flip over several semesters with careful planning of each step. One additional valuable resource for aspiring flippers is Robert Talbert’s Casting Out Nines blog on flipped learning skepticism [6].  It provides an excellent answer on how to address student pushback or reluctance to embrace the learning value of blended and flipped instruction.

Meanwhile, similar instructional advantages and learning gains have been observed by transforming the instructional laboratory experience using advanced hardware and software technologies, in this case using handheld, mobile lab-benches-on-a-printed-circuit-board and a MOHS Pedagogy, as described in the article “Blended Learning for Circuits and Electronics,” by ECE Professor Ken Connor of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  Similar to the principles inherent to a well-done flipped lecture course, the mobile learning platform and MOHS pedagogy offers students greater time-on-task and frequent and immediate feedback, two of the most important components to maximizing learning of new information by humans. In the ultimate limit of the benefits of blended instruction, Professor Connor makes the case for flipping both lecture and lab ECE courses and then combining them using mobile learning platforms and extensive use of IT. (Note to all: Professor Connor would find the experience of learning circuits at UW-Madison a very positive and much different one today!).

While some have regarded the MOOCs phenomenon as a threat to the future of residential campus college instruction, the initiatives described in this issue’s articles “flip” that viewpoint to one of an opportunity to add incredible value to the learning of residential college students who attend our classrooms. In fact, they are a compelling demonstration that the prediction of the demise of college campuses and residential instruction is greatly exaggerated. Instead, it is an exciting time for a renaissance of learning opportunities and instructional methods, leveraged by some of ECE/CS’s most impactful gifts to society: digital electronics, electronic communications, digital computing, and the internet. You are therefore enthusiastically encouraged to browse the issue, begin your own experiments in flipped or blended instruction and venture forward into an exciting new frontier for higher education, in general, and ECE/CS education, in particular.   

John H Booske
Duane H and Dorothy M Bluemke Professor and Chair, Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

[1] Mark Law, ECEHDA Annual Conference and Expo, Keynote Panel: Next Generation ECE Directions, March 22, 2014, Napa, CA.  http://ecedha.org/conferences/2014-ecedha-annual-conference-and-ecexpo

[2] http://www.wiscel.wisc.edu

[3] http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?arnumber=6633064

[4] http://www.Teach-Flip.utah.edu

[5] Coursera Field Guide URL https://docs.google.com/document/d/1arP1QAkSyVcxKYXgTJWCrJf02NdephTVGQltsw-S1fQ/edit?pli=1

[6] http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines/2014/04/28/flipped-learning-skepticism-is-flipped-learning-just-self-teaching/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en



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