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Evaluation and Action Academic Year 2010-2011

 

Academic year 2010-2011

At the Fall 2011 assessment meeting of the department, the discussion centered around the outcomes

  • a1-Ability to apply knowledge of mathematics,
  • a2-Ability to apply knowledge of science,  and
  • k1-Ability to use skills and techniques necessary for engineering practice.

 

For outcome a1, 23% students did not meet the expectations. For outcomes a2 and k1, corresponding percentages were 27 and 29 respectively. Each of the three outcomes is assessed using data from a collection of courses.

Outcome a1 uses data from ECE 210, 211, 340, 351, 352, 365, 375

Outcome a2 uses data from ECE 210, 211, 326, 340

Outcome k1 uses data from ECE 210, 282, 341, 351, 375, 381

A course-by-course analysis of the assessment data indicates that the results of all three outcomes are skewed by data coming from ECE 210 – Circuit Analysis I. This course is taken by majors of other engineering disciplines besides ECE students, and has large enrollment levels, typically around 80-90 students in the fall, and around 110-120 students in the spring.  A quick analysis of Fall 2011 enrollment data indicates that the total enrollment in two sections is 85, and 52 of these students (61 percent) are students outside ECE. Several potential modifications to data collection process were discussed:

 

  1. Do not collect assessment data in ECE 210,
  2. Weigh the assessment data in ECE 210 by percentage of ECE majors so that ECE 210 data does not disproportionately dominate aggregate results,
  3. Collect assessment data in ECE 210 based only on the performance of ECE majors.

 

None of the three options received broad support from the department faculty.  Option 1 is not attractive since ECE 210 if a fundamental core course that we would like to include in the assessment process. Option 2 does not completely address the problem of skewed results, and option 3 is cumbersome especially considering that ECE 210 has multiple sections (2 in the fall, 3 in the spring and 1 in summer) taught by different faculty members and call staff. Also, some students change majors after taking ECE210. It was decided to monitor the three outcomes in question in the short term and, explore other options in the long term. One viable idea is to offer a separate section for ECE majors only, and collect assessment data from that section. There might be challenges to the implementation of this idea due to scheduling and budget concerns.

For continuous improvement the following set of actions were decided:

Regarding a1 and a2: Develop simple placement tests to be given on the first day of class in ECE 210 and ECE 351. These tests are to be designed with the goal of allowing the faculty member to learn the readiness level of the class, identify any apparent weaknesses that may exist, and address these weaknesses to the extent possible and practical. Dr. Ying Shang agreed to develop the initial drafts of these placement tests and share them with the rest of the department.

Regarding k1:

  1. MATLAB is used widely in the curriculum but students have no formal way of learning it other than on their own as needed. The department will explore the possibility of offering a half-day non-credit MATLAB seminar once a semester.  It was suggested that we enlist the help of IEEE and SWE student societies for this purpose.
  2. Exposure to MATLAB based problems will be increased in ECE 351 – Signals and Systems.
  1. The department will purchase a 50-seat license of the EagleCAD software which allows the design, layout, and fabrication of the printed circuit boards to provide direct hands-on experience to students.

For general improvement:

The prerequisite structure of the first capstone design course ECE 404 was modified.  Effective Fall 2012, ECE 404 will require

a grade of C or better in ECE 282 - Digital Systems Design

a grade of C or better in ECE 351 - Signals and Systems

a grade of C or better in one of the following:

ECE 375 - Introduction to Communications

ECE 381 - Microcontrollers

This change will enforce better preparation in terms of design capabilities of students before they start their capstone design project.  The second capstone design course ECE 405 will continue to require a grade of C or better in ECE 404.

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