TEACHING ELECTRONICS USING A B-LEARNING APPROACH WITH EMPHASIS ON PRACTICAL AND LABORATORY SKILLS
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:The changes operated at Higher Education in the past recent years, namely the reduction on course duration caused by the Bologna agreement, put challenges on students´ skills. The todays’society and the employers, demand technical, personal and soft skills form graduates, in order to succeed. These characteristics are required in overall graduation courses but especially for those where technical and practical issues are more relevant, such as engineering courses. At the engineering labour market, the employers look for graduates with the right skills, willing to learn constantly and tend to give added value to any acquired know-how based on hands on. Therefore, the profile required for the professional Electrical and Electronics or Telecommunications engineer tends to emphasize also the technical skills, the ability to choose and use the correct measurement techniques or laboratory equipment and a critical thinking mindset.
To overcome the shortage on course duration, in one hand, and also to fulfill the needs and requirements of the new typical student profile, the Higher Education institutions started to invest resources in distance learning platforms (e.g. Moodle), new teaching and learning methodologies, new attractive and easy-to-use learning contents and resources, also with application to practical and laboratorial issues. Some examples are the simulation software applications, virtual and remote laboratories. Simulators are very effective and easy to use tools but can show some lack on flexibility. On the other hand, good simulation tools can represent a significant budgetary effort, even considering the prices for academic use. Remote laboratories, by its turn, although they are a very good alternative to traditional laboratory classes with flexibility of use in off-duty periods, require experience presets, lab equipment with connectivity and controllability features (thus more expensive), and the need of systems for management, scheduling, authentication and security purposes.
This paper presents the authors´ experience on teaching electronics in Bologna compliant courses (bachelor level) at a Polytechnic School, using a blended learning (b-learning) approach, with strong focus on hand-on laboratory classes. The main objective is to keep emphasis on practical skills, which is a characteristic of Polytechnic graduation courses whose aim is to prepare highly qualified and multifaceted engineering and technical professionals for the industry. The electronics courses taught comprise basic analog electronics, electronics applied to telecommunications and power electronics. The b-learning approach is described; resources used are presented and discussed. The students’ workload and effort is measured, the academic success rate is evaluated and the skills acquirement are pointed out based on the results achieved, taking into account the complexity of the proposed problems, the correctness of the solutions adopted, the time spent to accomplish tasks and the support asked.
Keywords: Engineering education, b-learning, skills development, students workload.