Electric circuit analysis is often the first calculus-based and discipline-related course for students in electrical and computer engineering and is therefore a gateway course to the discipline. Gateway courses such as electric circuit analysis often exhibit high rates of students receiving a D, F or withdrawing from the course altogether. DFW rates in excess of 30% are often reported for such classes, making them “high-risk." In an effort to promote student success in the basic electric circuits course at Montana State University, various assessment measures have been considered to identify students within the first week of the course, who are at-risk of failing the course. Based on what the identifying factors may suggest, web-based interventions are being designed to help students overcome hurdles which impede their progress in the course.
It is hypothesized that two key features, lack of sufficient metacognitive skill and persistent errors in mental models, are likely common in students reasonably engaged in the course and yet struggling. Unless mastery of appropriate circuit element models and development of the relevant schemas for mastering the course’s foundational content are achieved within the first few weeks of the course, students will perform poorly on the course’s first exam and suffer cognitive overload when approaching the material in the remainder of the course, the mastery of which both relies on competence with the course’s foundational material and on the ability to display somewhat more sophisticated mathematical skill.
This paper outlines the features of a web-based homework system which is currently being developed to help promote student success in a low-cost, easily scaled and transferable manner. The web-based system will use a modified form of the Knowledge Monitoring Assessment of Tobias and Everson to help foster the development of basic metacognitive skill and will employ key tenets of cognitive load theory to provide students with an individualized experience in tackling basic problems in circuit analysis. Initial student experience with the system will be described.
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