Over the last few years, ECE education has been undergoing some dramatic changes made possible by the availability of personal instrumentation such as Mobile Studio (RPI), myDAQ (National Instruments), Analog Discovery (Digilent/NI) and others. All of these devices were designed to free ECE undergrads from the constraints of fixed space, equipment and course scheduling so they can conduct experiments whenever and wherever they wish. Instructors are now also able to design the learning environment for their students that focuses on students doing while learning theory rather than separate lab based activities. The freedom for both students and instructors to practice and experience what is theoretically authentic rather than what has historically been possible has been shown to positively impact student learning and subsequent interest in continued learning and career options. Evidence indicates that hands-on learning is helping to recruit and retain college engineering students and is enhancing their future employment opportunities. Continued and expanded use of ECP learning, however has identified some barriers to use including hardware acquisition and use. The purpose of this paper is to identify the issues related to hardware, to determine potiental solutions, and to share information and solutions gleaned from successful adaptation. For example, while the cost of these active learning platforms is quite low (usually less than or comparable to the price of a typical new ECE textbook), many schools find it a major challenge to ask their students to purchase or even rent the existing device options. As a solution, some institutions purchase a reasonable collection of personal instruments and then loan them to their students. This solution, however, has its own barrier, since it is difficult or impossible to provide the full 24 hour/seven days a week, full 4 year program access needed to realize the potential of the Experiment Centric Pedagogy enabled by these excellent modules. In addition, research and evaluation have found many other areas of application of personal instrumentation before and after undergraduate education including high school STEM classes, continuing education, outreach/recruitment activities, etc. that can reach more people, more sites, and have a greater impact on engineering. Pilots of these uses, however, indicate that this is realistic only if units are significantly less expensive. At the current time, based on current development practices, a much lower price requires reducing performance in some way. This raises the question of what capabilities are sufficient for use in different settings and for different target uses, e.g. what performance criteria must be met in each of the application areas? More specifically, within each of these uses, we must also address what dynamic range, frequency response, ADC resolution, power levels, software, instructional support, etc. are necessary? More broadly, there is also a need to consider the scope and sequence of learning. What course content can be addressed with only frequencies through the audio range? How important is MATLAB or LabVIEW connectivity? What cross platform tools need to be supported (Windows, Linux, OS-X, etc)? Does this provide the pedagogical scaffolding to prepare students for using more advanced/capable instruments in future years? This presentation will help lay the groundwork for future discussions on issues relevant to continued and expanded use of ECP/mobile device supported learning.
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