The Academy of Electronic Media earns NSF grant and engineering award for multimedia courseware


TROY, N.Y.-- The Academy of Electronic Media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has received double recognition for pioneering innovative multimedia courseware to help undergraduate college students grasp the basic concepts of engineering systems, from cars to computers chips, to complex music synthesizers.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the Academy a two-year, $350,000 grant to produce new Web-based materials, based on the Academy's earlier courseware, that support electrical engineering education. The Academy also will be working with local K-12 teachers and museum educators to incorporate the courseware in other learning environments.

"We know from experience with the electronics curriculum courseware that compelling interactivity using advanced visualization can dramatically improve a student's ability to build and retain a deep understanding of science, engineering, and mathematics," said Don Millard, director of the Academy who spearheaded the courseware development. "The new NSF funding allows us to apply what we have learned to create new online engineering education tools to stimulate the interest of students from kindergarten through high school. If we can spark their imaginations when they are young, they may be encouraged to pursue technical careers."

The Academy also received the Premier Award for Excellence from the National Engineering Education Delivery System (NEEDS). The award recognizes high-quality, non-commercial courseware designed to enhance engineering education. NEEDS, considered by engineering professionals to be at the frontier of engineering education, provides free Web-based access to engineering learning resources worldwide.

The original courseware, called Learning Modules for an Electronics Curriculum and on which the new online materials will be based, can be downloaded from The modules incorporate interactive graphics, video, sounds, text, and hyperlinks to illustrate basic electrical engineering concepts. For example, the courseware allows students to design and test circuits and learn the fundamentals of electronic signals.

The Academy also has developed software, called WebTeam, as part of the online package that allows real-time engineering collaborations over the Internet.

The courseware is used in more than 20 universities across the country and in Europe to enhance traditional engineering lectures or support exercises and explorations within a studio classroom environment.

Outside of the traditional classroom, the engineering courseware provides virtual laboratory experiments, study supplements for independent learners, and interactive homework assignments. The courseware includes 24 separate modules.

The Web-based programs were initially designed for the studio classroom format at Rensselaer as part of the Institute's pioneering efforts in interactive learning and collaborative environments that began in the 1990s. Studio classes combine lecture, discussion, computer simulation, and lab experimentation in the same environment.

Collaborators on the courseware project are Gerald Burnham from the University of Texas at Dallas and Dianna Newman from the University at Albany.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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