New Web-Based Interactive Learning Material for Digital Design

Published 2016


Frank Vahid
University of California, Riverside

Alex Edgcomb
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Susan Lysecky
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Roman Lysecky
University of Arizona

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Studying college-level digital design involves both the learning of concepts and the developing of skills, as with various other engineering topics. For example, converting a Boolean function to a minimized circuit not only involves learning concepts of Boolean algebra, but also developing skills in creating truth tables, minimizing equations via K-maps, and converting equations to circuits. Sequential design involves not only learning concepts of state machines, but also developing skills in describing behavior as a state machine, and converting to a controller. Developing skills especially benefits from practice, via homework. But, assigning and grading sufficient homework problems is a challenge for instructors, due to limited time and resources. Furthermore, traditional grading of homework has long feedback cycles, which is not conducive to learning. 

We thus created new web-based interactive learning material for digital design, to replace existing textbooks. To help master concepts, the material makes extensive use of interactive activities like animations and learning questions. To help master both concepts and skills, the material integrates web-based simulators, and a homework system that auto-generates exercises, and that immediately auto-grades student answers while also providing feedback. 

The material has been used at over 40 universities and several thousand students thus far. This paper describes the various items used throughout the material to help students both learn concepts and develop skills.

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