Enhanced Radio Lab Experience Using ePortfolios
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In the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at our university, there is a course unofficially referred to as the “radio lab”. This is a required 1 credit hour course for the Electrical Engineering program. Students simulate, breadboard, and measure the performance of a variety of AM radio building blocks (various amplifiers, detectors, etc.). One of the lab’s objectives is to develop the student’s writing ability. Historically, this has been accomplished by requiring bi-weekly technical memos. Our university has recently encouraged the use of ePortfolios as a quality enhancement tool. An ePortfolio may be loosely defined as a personalized, professional webpage created to showcase an individual. In the 2015 Fall semester, radio lab students were allowed to use ePortfolios instead of submitting conventional memos. For this trial run, 40% of the students (14 of 35) opted to develop ePortfolios. Two of the teaching assistants for the course (the first authors on the proposed paper), were tasked with working with the students on the mechanics of creating ePortfolios and on suggested content. Some content promoted by the teaching assistants included insertion of breadboarded circuit pictures and oscilloscope waveforms along with discussion of results and technical data. We theorize that the inclusion of supplemental media and reflective writing will promote a deeper understanding of the course material. Although the test group (all volunteers) and the control group (the remainder of the class) were not randomly selected, we will nevertheless compare the performance between the two groups. This comparison will be based on the final exam and by the use of feedback surveys to determine whether ePortfolios enhance understanding of the material and whether or not it is a useful addition to the radio lab. The feedback will also be used to improve the procedure, with the intent to require the use of ePortfolios for all radio lab students beginning spring semester.