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Interactive teaching practices in small class sizeswhileCutting into the high cost of educationHurson, A.R.1, Kavi, K.M.21Computer Science and Engineering Department, The Pennsylvania State University,University Park, PA 16802, USA, [email protected] and Computer Engineering Department, University of Alabama at Huntsville,Huntsville, AL, 35899, USA, [email protected]: The constant increase in the cost of higher education; recent marketdemands for computer specialists; lack of expertise in offering technology-orientedcourses; and a new class of non-traditional adult students, combined with the constantpressure to maintain small class sizes call for new teaching practices. Furthermore, it hasbeen proven than people's learning styles differ; most students absorb and retain visualmaterial more readily than other types of material, but the world is full of ear-learners andthose who learn by physical practice. The average learner retains about 20% of what isheard, 40% of what is seen and heard, and 75% of what is seen, heard, and experienced.A traditional classroom setting mainly offers seeing and hearing practices; print- orvideo-based distance study breaks the classroom boundary but offers the same teachingpractices.Recent marriage between computation and communication technologies offers anatural solution to these issues: Advances in computer technology allow information tobe presented in many different ways (multimedia); hence, interactive computer coursesoffer all three modes of learning. Advances in communication technology allow theinformation to be available anytime and anywhere. The marriage between the two allowsa higher degree of accessibility and offers various learning modes beyond the traditionaltime and space limitations.This paper addresses our effort and experience in developing a computerorganization course using multimedia technology. In addition, it discusses some futurechanges in developing modular courses in computer science/engineering curricula.Keywords: Interactive-teaching, multimedia, computer-organization, CD-ROM4. IntroductionIn recent years a concern has been raised that the higher education system as awhole and the so-called research-oriented universities in particular have forgotten theirmission to effectively prepare students for their perspective roles in the real world. Inan effort to rectify this concern, the College of Engineering at the Pennsylvania StateUniversity, like many other large universities, launched a campaign to improve effectiveclassroom teaching. However, in the information super-highway era when thetechnology is advancing so rapidly, effective teaching is not the only challenge to beresolved. How to keep students, curriculums, and working class people up-to-date isbecoming even a more challenging task. Today's curriculums are becoming more andmore demanding and courses are becoming more and more complex and voluminous.Solutions as such — Expanding the baccalaureate degree, intensifying the high schoolcurriculums, etc. should be studied in length and should be measured based on theireconomical impact. As a practical solution we suggest to: i) revise the old-fashionedteaching practices to encourage, motivate, and attract potential students despite of theirphysical, geographical, and economical handicaps to the universities and colleges, andii) develop new flexible and cost effective techniques to involve students whileimproving their learning ability. This suggests distance as well as on-campus educationand a teaching platform that motivates interactivity, hands-on projects, and flexibility.Research has also shown that people's learning styles differ; most studentsabsorb and retain visual material more readily than other kinds, but the world is full ofear-learners and those who learn by physical practice. The average learner retainsabout 20% of what is heard, 40% of what is seen and heard, and 75% of what is seen,heard, and done (Reisman and Carr 1991; Yager 1991). A traditional classroom mainlyoffers seeing and hearing; print- or video-based distance study does the same — passiveteaching techniques; but interactive computer courses offer all three modes of learning.As Edward I. Vockell noted in an article on instructional principles (Vockell 1990),"One of the major strengths of the computer is that it can present the same informationin many different ways."The advantages of interactive computer teaching are flexibility, lower cost, andactive learning. While Liberal Arts disciplines are already making use of interactivecomputer courses, no sequence of university-level computer science and engineeringcourses exists. Interactive courses are particularly effective in fields such asengineering, science, architecture, and archaeology, where hands-on manipulation ofelements in a design or research project can be simulated on a computer. A goodexample, funded by the National Science Foundation, is an archaeology course createdby Kathryn Cruz-Uribe of Northern Arizona University and Barbara Mills of theUniversity of Arizona. According to Ms. Cruz-Uribe, the program's major benefit is thatit allows students to work with artifacts that would be too fragile to handle orunavailable to them in real life (Chronicle of Higher Education 1993). On-screenassembly and analysis is equally appropriate in computer and electrical engineering.In November 1993, an informal poll of AACIS (the American Association forCollegiate Independent Study) was taken. Questions concerned costs of developingmultimedia computer-based courses for distance learners' potential enrollments basedupon student interest, and availability of hardware among the student population. Theresponse was meager: most universities are not yet developing their own interactivecourses, although they expressed interest in buying packages produced by somebodyelse.This paper is intended to discuss our effort and experience in developing amultimedia computer organization course. In addition, it overviews our future efforts inthis direction. Section 2 overviews some of the efforts in developing multimediacourses. Section 3 addresses our multimedia course. Section 4 discusses ourexperiences in offering such a new teaching practice in traditional classrooms, andfinally, section 5 concludes the paper and highlights our future efforts in this direction.5. The literature reviewA number of efforts in various universities such as the University of


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