Gas station without pumps

2012 October 29

A different way forward for circuit course

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:30
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Eleven days ago, I posted about a discussion I had with the EE undergrad director about a political way forward for the applied circuits course.  When I sent a summary of that discussion to the interested members of the undergrad curriculum committee, he responded that I had gotten it all wrong.

I had another meeting today with the EE undergrad director and my co-instructor (also the bioengineering undergrad director who is my department chair), to see if we could find a way forward that we can agree on.  Here are some of my notes from that discussion:

  1. My co-instructor and I will prototype an applied circuits course this Winter as a “group tutorial” that does not require higher levels of approval than the department.
  2. The course will not attempt to be an equivalent to the EE circuits course. Instead we will make it as broadly accessible as possible, consistent with it
    meeting the needs of the bioengineering majors for a solid engineering design course.
  3. We will document the course as best we can so that others can potentially teach it in future.I will document the labs as best I can, and we will put any lab handouts or lecture notes we develop publicly accessible on the web.
  4. The course that we teach will be accepted by the bioengineering major as satisfying the circuits course requirement, but will not be accepted by EE as a prereq for courses that require their circuits course as a prereq. That means that this course will be suitable as a terminal electronics course, but not as a gateway to the
    bioelectronics course (unless students follow it with EE’s circuits course).
  5. After the course has been taught, we will meet with any EE faculty who are interested to be debriefed on the course design. At that time decisions will be made about whether the course is ever taught again (it is an experiment and it could fail badly), if it is adopted/adapted by EE as a new course, or if our department offers the course in future. (Other outcomes are also potentially possible.)

Other items not discussed at the meeting (and hopefully not controversial):

  • My co-instructor has checked with people who schedule the lab times that lab time can be scheduled next quarter, as long as we only need fixed time blocks, and not open access.
  • I have asked the scheduler to schedule the lecture course MWF next quarter, not conflicting with my co-instructor’s schedule. I’ve suggested a cap of 24 students (one lab section), but if the course fills and we can schedule another lab section, we could raise the cap to 40.
  • I have informed the bioengineering staff adviser of the group tutorial course, and she will check how students register for group tutorial courses.
  • Later this week, I’ll send out an e-mail announcement to all bioengineering majors, minors, and pre-majors, letting them know of the existence of this experimental course and how they can sign up for it.
  • We do not expect a TA for the group tutorial, but would like to hire a (cheaper) undergrad group tutor/grader to help out. In future years, if the course if taught on a regular basis, it should probably have one instructor or professor plus a TA.

I hope that this time we heard the same points as agreement, so that I can continue moving forward with the course design, and not keep getting sidetracked into politics (which, quite frankly, I’m terrible at).

My co-instructor and I have agreed that we will try to use free on-line materials instead of a textbook, and that student money freed up by not buying a textbook will be used instead for tools and parts for students to purchase.  I’m estimating a budget of about $100 for tools and parts per student, but we may end up having to break that up into separate “kits”, especially if we redesign later labs based on experience in the early ones.


1 Comment »

  1. […] On Monday, I met with my co-instructor to discuss pedagogic approach, topics we need to cover, number of exams to give, and the politics of getting to offer the course.  Afterwards we met with the EE undergrad director and the chair of my department to reach agreement on what the course is for. I also recorded the main points of the agreement about what we were prototyping and sent it to those at the meeting and the relevant members of the undergraduate curriculum committee, so that we would have a record of what was agreed on (that  e-mail was edited slightly for the post A different way forward for circuit course). […]

    Pingback by Notes for things to do on circuits course « Gas station without pumps — 2012 November 1 @ 07:18 | Reply

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