Exploiting a disruptive technology to actively engage students in the learning process

John M. Robertson, Kathleen Meehan, Robert John Bowman, Kenneth A. Connor, Douglas A. Mercer

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

    5 Scopus citations


    Once every decade or so, a disruptive technology appears that has the potential to revolutionize electrical and computer engineering (ECE) education. This paper considers the impact of one of the most recent examples: A USB-powered instrument called Analog Discovery that is cheap enough for students to own personally. Students are no longer bound by the constraints of fixed space, equipment, and schedules in their institution to conduct experiments. Instructional materials are posted for free and advice is provided by early adopters, working engineers and hobbyists in forums on the internet to simplify the adoption of this pedagogical approach. The paper outlines the experience of four universities with support from three companies to exploit this technology in ECE curricula. Assessment of hands-on pedagogy shows that the approach has very positive impact on the depth of understanding of complex concepts. Effects are particularly profound in the early years of a university program and for underrepresented and minority students or who have had a fractured educational experience. Just as profound, is the impact "hands-on learning" has on college engineering program retention rates and students' future employment opportunities. Experimenting and solving problems in a hands-on environment can provide a solid grounding in engineering principles. More importantly, handson learning with one of the various student learning tools is just plain fun for faculty as well as students. The paper also considers the potential for this technology to seed a disruptive chain of developments in higher education.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    StatePublished - 2013
    Event120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Atlanta, GA, United States
    Duration: Jun 23 2013Jun 26 2013


    Other120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CityAtlanta, GA

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Engineering


    Dive into the research topics of 'Exploiting a disruptive technology to actively engage students in the learning process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this