Student Usage of Digital Design Interactive Learning Tools in an Online Textbook

Published 2019


Dr. Yamuna Rajasekhar
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Dr. Alex Daniel Edgcomb
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Prof. Frank Vahid
University of California, Riverside

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Digital design is a foundational course in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering that describes the basic logical processes from which digital systems are designed. While digital design courses have typically relied on physical textbooks for learning, many classes have begun using a zyBook, which is a web-native, online textbook that includes interactive learning tools. Learning tools are topic-specific, open-ended activities embedded within a topic section, such as a K-map simplification tool or a finite-state-machine simulator. Students have unlimited time to interact with the learning tool. Such interactions are automatically recorded and instructors can see completion rates of each activity by each student. Some learning tools auto-grade, whereas others are followed by formative assessment questions (e.g., short answer and multiple choice). This paper describes auto-graded learning tools, called challenge activities, from various topics in the Digital Design zyBook. Instructors often assign challenge activities as homework. Each challenge activity has around 2-7 levels that become incrementally harder at each level, where the first level is deliberately simpler and the last level is harder, typically the difficulty of a written homework problem. Each level randomly generates questions from a large set of equally-difficult questions. When a student correctly answers the question, the student can proceed to the next level. This paper describes student usage of 4 challenge activities, across 3,099 to 4,518 students (varies by activity) at 43 universities, to provide insight into how such activities impact the student learning experience in digital design courses. Key insight: Students tend to make small mistakes on early levels, then quickly solve the harder levels, enabling most students to complete a challenge activity within 10 minutes.


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