Collaborative Research: Implementation and Evaluation of a Sustainable Computer-Based Tutoring System for Introductory Linear Circuit Analysis

Project: Research project


B. Project Summary Overview. Arizona State University (ASU), in close collaboration with the University of Virginia (U.Va.), the University of Notre Dame (ND), the University of the Pacific (UOP), and Colorado State University (CSU), proposes a three-year, Type II TUES project to expand, disseminate, and evaluate a step-based computer-aided tutoring system to aid in the teaching of elementary linear circuit analysis. Building on the prototype software developed in a Type I project, this system can generate circuit problems involving random topologies as well as element values. It also produces fully worked solutions using methods typically taught in such classes and employing a variety of special pedagogical features, including exercises designed to correct common student misconceptions. They system accepts a rich variety of inputs such as equations, re-drawn circuit diagrams, waveform sketches, matrix equations as well as conventional numerical and multiple choice answers. A randomized, controlled laboratory-based evaluation has shown that student learning using this system increases by about a factor of 10 compared to doing traditional homework exercises for the same period of time. In the Type II project, we will expand the scope of the system to cover most of the topics in a traditional twosemester linear circuits course, including topics such as Fourier analysis, Laplace transforms, Bode plots, etc. We will further convert the existing stand-alone program to a web-based version more amenable to wide usage. The system will be employed in various ways in linear circuit classes at ASU, U.Va., ND, and UOP during the program. Rigorous independent evaluation and analysis of the resulting qualitative and quantitative data collected at these institutions will be performed by Dr. Daniel Robinson at CSU, an experienced educational evaluator. Intellectual Merit. The key intellectual contribution will be to establish how student learning in a foundational course in electrical engineering can be enhanced by increasing student engagement using interactive exercises that provide rapid feedback to students at each step of a problem, as opposed to most existing answer-based systems that provide little help in identifying the source of errors. We will develop a tutorial authoring interface and execution engine that will allow tutorial writers (who can be instructors or any other interested individuals) to access the features of our circuit generation and solution modules to design effective tutoring sequences. By testing the software system in a variety of public and private institutions, we hope to demonstrate that it can be broadly useful in enhancing student learning and success, and that it can provide rapid feedback to instructors regarding the areas in which their students are having the most difficulty. We also expect that it will be highly suitable for incorporation into massive open on-line courses (MOOCs) addressing this subject area. Broader Impacts. As this type of course is taken by very large numbers of engineering students in various disciplines, we expect to have a significant impact on engineering education. To ensure broad impact, we will explore dissemination of our fully-developed prototype via opensource channels, which might couple into existing MOOCs. However we will also consider a commercial dissemination route to help ensure long-term sustainability, and have already obtained strong interest from a major textbook publisher. We will publish our results and present the work at conferences and construct a project web site, and will conduct a workshop at a major engineering education conference in the third year to help disseminate the program. We expect that our approach could later be adapted to certain other subject areas in electrical engineering as well as other engineering disciplines. For broad outreach, we plan to make some of the simpler tutorials and modules on basic circuit properties available to high school students and the general public on a web site designed for that purpose. Underrepresented minority students will be recruited whenever possible to work on the project.
Effective start/end date9/15/138/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $299,744.00


Electric network analysis
Networks (circuits)
Electrical engineering
Engineering education
Fourier analysis
Laplace transforms
Technical presentations
Sustainable development