Professors of the Electrical Engineering Department have developed a new method based on the flipped classroom or the Multimodal Mobile Learning, to convey knowledge to the students. This paper presents this innovative method and the benefits that have been observed. A second article entitled Remote Laboratory Work: A Must in the Engineering Education presenting the remote laboratory work was published on this subject.
Using Technology in Education
Engineering practice requires often adaptability to complex professional situations. Today, more and more university programs offer curricula focused on the learning process rather than transmission. This change has prioritized active learning methods and gave opportunities for various pedagogical innovations.
With ICT evolution and the wide accessibility of the Internet, during the last two decades, a high level of mobilization took place around pedagogy and teaching approaches. This reminds the metaphor of the utopian model of the school in 2000 as it was imagined by Villemard more than a century ago.
A score of new approaches and new teaching methods have been proposed. However, the possibilities in innovation and contribution remain open. Choosing the right type of training – coupled with the appropriate strategy, and based on various media and methods – appears to represent quite a challenge for all teaching professionals, particularly in the fields of science and engineering. In these specialties, laboratory work – as well as the connection between practice and the real world – is an added challenge while it creates opportunities for innovation.
From Flipped Classroom to Multimodal Mobile Learning
In the analog electronic circuits course, ELE200, at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), we have been addressing this need for change for the past ten years. Our teaching practices have evolved while taking into account the contributions of educational research and of ICT development. This course has also evolved continuously by incorporating, for example, the project-based learning for laboratory work, in 2006. The experience of the teaching team helped introducing the multimodal mobile learning approach (MML). This approach is guided by the problem-based learning technique and the flipped classroom principle, while capitalizing on the potential of remote laboratories, and the use of ICT as key element.
Integrating the flipped classroom principle into our course has led us to develop the concept of the multimodal mobile learning (FODAR 2014-2015).
Figure 2 highlights the different learning methods related to this concept. The students start the course by viewing a real problem situation (PROSIT), designed and produced by the teaching staff, in accordance with the subject of the chapter being studied. They then investigate the different resources offered in the course – containing the basic elements of the course – in order to better understand the challenge in the PROSIT. Subsequently, a series of quizzes is available on the Moodle platform to allow the students to evaluate themselves, and the teacher to assess the achievements of the students.
At this point, the method is inspired from problem-based learning. The students then work in teams on a remote laboratory task, and submit a short report to explain their solutions based on what they learned in the previous steps. This step is the collaborative and remote method. The Tutorial plus is a means of reinforcement offering students a video support presenting a commented problem-solving approach in a classroom environment, with a small group of students.
In the classroom, the mode is called face to face and the activities are designed to answer questions, analyze weaknesses in the reports and in the quizzes, and discuss other related problems. The session ends with quizzes using clickers, allowing students and teachers to assess the level of acquired knowledge and skills.
Figure 3 is the flow chart of the course activities.
A second article, following shortly, will discuss in detail this teaching method (see The Multimodal Mobile Learning Applied to Engineering Courses).
An Opportunity for Leadership in Engineering Education
After several years of development and testing intended to improve learning through the skillful integration of ICT, we came up with an innovative mode of presentation for this course. We are convinced that the multimodal mobile learning method, as it is designed, is a promising model that will quickly gain more supporters because it touches profound learning concerns, it capitalizes on the convenience of ICT, and it brings cost effective and optimized solutions to laboratory work. Our experience has even attracted the attention of training specialists in other countries. We have been approached by other academic organizations to present our method (in French only):
Through these experiences, the teaching staff has gained valuable expertise, and we believe that the ÉTS could become the leader in the skillful use of this form of teaching and management of laboratory work. This project is a promising breakthrough in technological education. As with any innovation, it raises issues such as resistance, complications, and even some concerns. In the near future, however, this teaching method in the science and technology curriculum will increase in popularity within most institutions. The ÉTS could play a leading role in this aspect provided sufficient human and financial resources are allocated.
The multimodal mobile learning approach originated from the flipped classroom principle, whereby the lecture portion is indirectly assigned to the students in the form of a video presentation depicting a problem situation, and followed by elements of the course commented in a preparatory stage. This stage is enhanced with training quizzes. The video plays a central role at this point by offering the students the great advantage of learning at their own pace. The projection of an image through video reminds us of the quote on motion picture from Thomas Edison in 1922:
“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and… in a few years, it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.” He added that considering the way in which they are written, textbooks yield a two percent result in efficiency, whereas the education of the future, supported by the input of motion picture, could achieve an efficiency of one hundred percent.
Edison’s prediction was disproportionate for his era but a century later, video might well validate his thoughts to some extent.
Vahé Nerguizian is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at ÉTS. His research focusses on bio-engineering, cancer cell detection, microfluidic systems, MEMS and telecommunications.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Radhi Mhiri is Full Professor of electrical engineering at the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis and consultant for innovation projects in technological education at ÉTS.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Mamane Moustapha Dodo Amadou
Mamane Moustapha Dodo Amadou is a lecturer in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Automated Production at ÉTS. His research interests include modeling, simulation and control of power grids.
Maarouf Saad is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at ÉTS. His research focuses on nonlinear control and optimization applied to robotics, avionics, and electrical networks.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Research laboratories : GREPCI – Power Electronics and Industrial Control Research Group