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Teaching is easy, teaching with a learning effect is hard
Opening statement of a GeCON 2022 panel session
I attended the IEEE GeCon conference in Berlin, the first conference organized by IEEE where professors from all over Germany and abroad got together to discuss different education methods. The traditional education of students physically being present for lectures and labs is no longer the only way how to teach. This became especially obvious over the last two years, where the physical presence was either restricted or not possible at all. However, distant teaching by simply switching the lecturing to video conferencing via online conference tools is not the answer either. Teaching in front of a screen, where the students have switched off their cameras is not satisfactory for neither the lecturer nor for students, because it lacks the interactivity that a physical lecture provides. At the DATE conference, the BarCamp events have proven that it is possible to have online interactive sessions, but at a higher effort than the traditional lecture style.
At this conference, we discussed the issues of traditional teaching versus virtual teaching and how to make the biggest impact for students studying EE and hoping to join the EDA industry. Let’s go over some of the topics.
Slides presented by T Bartel from TU Dortmund "On embedding a traditional mechanical engineering course in a constructivist learning environment"
Digitized, distant assessments are beneficial for the reviewer, since automated evaluation methods can be applied, which greatly reduces the review effort; on the other hand, multiple choice and similar digital input methods do not assess the creativity of the student, which is also a desirable aspect of studying at an academic institution. Coding exercises can be provided for students to write different code and show their skills, and if the code passes unit tests or creates a certain output, the examiner can quickly verify that the code is working. However certain cheat countermeasures need to be implemented, since a simple “printf” can also print any desirable output; So a big topic is how to surveil the distantly assessed person without violating GDPR, while still allowing students to be distantly assessed, as surveys show that students feel it causes less stress and offers better concentration.
For online teaching and assessment, Moodle became a quasi-standard in the academic environment. This is an open-source Learning Management System (LMS), with numerous add-ons, which allow to implement distant courses, assessments and evaluations. While Cadence is not using Moodle for LMS, we are offering online courses and education kits for download, which can be adapted by the lecturers for their needs. Our online exams provide digital badges, which are used to certify the student and prove their knowledge on a certain topic.
Different sciences require different labs, for instance, chemical experiments require a certain level of control and flexibility of machinery, in comparison to a software lab. For a software lab, simulation of the experiment is a possibility, machinery is virtualized as a digital twin.
Slide presented by Jc Kuhr from Hochschule Stralsund "Self-determined distance learning by virtual twins in undergraduate control systems labs"
Coding-savvy lab assistants are using gaming-engines like Unity to create digital twins for mechanical engineering experiments, which can even be held in a VR-environment. Electrical engineers can use tools like Microwave Office tool suite from Cadence, where experiments, which are usually done using a breadboard, can be done at home, using a self-licensed version of the software. Professor Fornetti shows on his YouTube channel how different electrical experiments can be executed using Microwave Office, and the book Electronic Experiences in a Virtual Lab book, written by Roberto Gastaldi and Giovanni Campardo, shows many electrical experiments using OrCAD PSpice, which can also be self-licensed by students.
One of the questions during the panel discussion was if this effort is needed and if it increases the quality of teaching and learning. My honest answer was that in times of sinking number of EE students, academia and industry must try everything to make studying EE more attractive, even if it means more preparation and effort by the lecturers and lab assistants. Allowing more flexibility, like distant assessments and at home labs, is welcomed by the students and will increase how many students join the EE journey. A way to achieve this goal is to encourage lecturers to share the know-how and resources they’ve created, there should be collaboration between universities that are offering similar curriculums, and documentation of experiments, so that it can be replicated by the creating institution and others.
Collaboration between universities and between industry and academia is of the utmost importance to the Cadence Academic Network. To help encourage students to pursue EE and ease the effort to create new and engaging curriculum, we are offering Education Kits, Cadence Online Training courses, access to Cadence Online Support, and so much more! We would be excited to partner with you as you take steps in revolutionizing your curriculum. Reach out to us to see how we can help. Looking to talk with other experts in the industry? Explore our LinkedIn groups and start talking about the challenges you face or the victories you’ve achieved.
Innovation happens when we share diverse perspectives, let’s connect to see how we can impact the future of technology.