A platform for computer engineering education

Sohum A. Sohoni, Kerri S. Kearney, Rebecca L. Damron

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


The goal of the Progressive Learning Platform (PLP) pilot project is to design and test a platform to teach students how the underlying hardware building blocks relate to organization and architecture of microprocessors. PLP helps students link computer engineering concepts-logic design, microprocessors, computer architecture, embedded systems, compilers, operating systems, and high-level language constructs-in order to be able to construct a deeper understanding of the field of computer engineering. This deeper/richer understanding is expected to improve their knowledge retention, and their ability to assimilate new knowledge when they enter the workforce. PLP is based on the theoretical framework of conceptual blending-how human beings synthesize new knowledge by assimilating and blending what they already know. Since some aspects of this framework are similar to constructivism, PLP-based courses utilize project-based learning, collaborative learning, and an emphasis on students being able to articulate design decisions. To test the effectiveness of PLP, pre/post content tests in a number of courses served as quantitative data while qualitative results were obtained from linguistic analysis of student reflective essays and video transcript of students from lab sessions, and through focus group interviews. The qualitative methods allowed us to stand in the students' shoes and provided deep insights into how they acquired procedural and conceptual knowledge. Our results show that students viewed PLP-based course projects as authentic tasks representative of real engineering projects. The results also showed that the PLP environment served to push students to go back and review concepts from current and previous courses that they would need to apply in their projects. The project has produced a number of products including tutorials for instructors and students, research papers, PLPTool Java code, the PLP instruction set, and the PLP reference implementation in Verilog. All these are available on the PLP website to facilitate easy adoption of PLP at other universities. We are looking for partners to adopt PLP in their courses. The long-term vision for PLP is to be a free and scalable platform for face-to-face and online education in computing worldwide. We are at the initial stage, where our platform is mature and tested at our own sites, but has not been adopted at other institutions. Expected future direction for PLP includes three lines. Visualization tools that use PLP as the underlying engine aim to allow students at all levels (middle-school through practicing professionals) to understand how computers work. We are also working on creating literature, website materials, and tutorials to facilitate PLP's adoption by other instructors. This work will help in the third line of exploration- research on impact of PLP on student learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
StatePublished - 2014
Event121st ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: 360 Degrees of Engineering Education - Indianapolis, IN, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2014Jun 18 2014


Other121st ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: 360 Degrees of Engineering Education
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityIndianapolis, IN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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