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.
Frank Vahid is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Univ. of California, Riverside. His research interests include embedded systems design, and engineering education. He is a co-founder of zyBooks.com.
Alex Edgcomb is Sr. Software Engineer at zyBooks, a startup spun-off from UC Riverside and acquired by Wiley. zyBooks develops interactive, web-native learning materials for STEM courses. Alex actively studies and publishes the efficacy of web-native learning materials on student outcomes.
Susan Lysecky received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside in 2006. She served as a faculty member at the University of Arizona from 2006-2014. She has a background in design automation and optimization for embedded systems, as well as experience in the development of accessible engineering curricula and learning technologies. She is currently a Senior Content Developer at zyBooks, a startup that develops highly-interactive, web-native textbooks for a variety of STEM disciplines.
Roman Lysecky is VP of Content at zyBooks, A Wiley Brand and a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Riverside in 2005. His research focu
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