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Appears in:
Pages: 8653-8662
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0884

Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain

EXPERIENCES USING FREE SOFTWARE SIMULATION TOOLS IN ENGINEERING HIGHER EDUCATION

R. Igual Catalán1, J.J. Marcuello2, C. Medrano1, I. Plaza1, I. Garcia-Magariño1, F.J. Arcega2

1University of Zaragoza, EduQTech group. EUPT (SPAIN)
2University of Zaragoza, EduQTech group. EINA (SPAIN)
The advances experienced in the Information and Communication Technologies and the popularization of the devices with computing capacity have promoted the use of simulation tools as educational resources. Simulation tools can help to understand complex concepts or visualize phenomena which are difficult to perceive in real-world experiments. However, the use of these tools for education purposes faces important barriers. Several authors state that the availability of the resources is one of their main drawbacks as well as the lack of information or documentation about the use of the simulators (Lean et al., 2006; Moore, 2016). This may be because most simulation tools cannot be distributed freely and do not have a community with active members that support and document the tools. These problems might be overcome by the use of free software simulators.

In this paper, we present several experiences using free software simulation tools in Engineering Higher Education courses. The experiences shown cover several courses of different Engineering Degrees: “Electronics and Automation”, “Electrical Engineering”, “Computing” and “Industrial Technologies”. These tools have been used in teaching activities for several years. As a result, the perceptions, gained experience and views of the teachers involved in the different courses are presented and discussed. Teachers specially valued the independence of the tools from commercial policies, as well as the suppression of expensive licenses with the corresponding cost savings for their Universities. Additionally, they perceived that students understood better the simulations performed since all the parts of the tools could be freely accessed. They also remarked the possibility of changing the code at low level and fuse different free software projects together, what is not possible with the commercial tools. In addition, free software simulators allowed students to start in a very common world currently, the collaborative communities, which may be of great importance in their future professional activities. However, teachers involved in these experiences also detected several drawbacks. In some cases, free software simulators are less robust than their commercial alternatives, which usually pay special attention at the design, being perceived by students as a signal of higher quality. In some simulators the documentation is incomplete, and there is a lack of easy-to-use examples which hinders the use of the tool by low-experienced users such as first-year students. Additionally, they also detected that some students did not know the difference between free software and commercial software and, thus, they did not perceive the advantages and disadvantages of each group.

Based on these experiences, teachers also highlighted some future challenges of free software simulators: the consolidation of these tools as educational resources in Higher Education will depend on the capacity of the communities to attract students, and the only way to do that is by having easy-to-understand complete documentation, renewing the tools constantly to adapt to the new educational environments, and providing friendly interfaces and improved performance.

References:
[1] J. Lean et al. Simulations and games. Use and barriers in higher education. Act. Lear. in High. Ed. 7(3) 227-242, 2006
[2] J.D. Moore. Open-Source Pathways to Educational Development. Fast forwarding High. Ed. Inst. for Global Chall. 25-35, 2016
@InProceedings{IGUALCATALAN2016EXP,
author = {Igual Catal{\'{a}}n, R. and Marcuello, J.J. and Medrano, C. and Plaza, I. and Garcia-Magari{\~n}o, I. and Arcega, F.J.},
title = {EXPERIENCES USING FREE SOFTWARE SIMULATION TOOLS IN ENGINEERING HIGHER EDUCATION},
series = {8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN16 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-8860-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2016.0884},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2016.0884},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {8653-8662}}
TY - CONF
AU - R. Igual Catalán AU - J.J. Marcuello AU - C. Medrano AU - I. Plaza AU - I. Garcia-Magariño AU - F.J. Arcega
TI - EXPERIENCES USING FREE SOFTWARE SIMULATION TOOLS IN ENGINEERING HIGHER EDUCATION
SN - 978-84-608-8860-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0884
PY - 2016
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2016
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN16 Proceedings
SP - 8653
EP - 8662
ER -
R. Igual Catalán, J.J. Marcuello, C. Medrano, I. Plaza, I. Garcia-Magariño, F.J. Arcega (2016) EXPERIENCES USING FREE SOFTWARE SIMULATION TOOLS IN ENGINEERING HIGHER EDUCATION, EDULEARN16 Proceedings, pp. 8653-8662.
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