The 2013 Harvey Spangler Award
for Technology-enhanced Instruction
Electrical engineering alumni as far back as the 1960s recall ECE 230, Circuit Analysis, for the enormous challenge it poses students. Likewise, Electrical and Computer Engineering Faculty Associate Michael Morrow faced an enormous challenge of his own in seeking ways to improve that experience for today’s students. But by embracing blended learning principles as a core tenet of the circuit design course, Morrow is helping to lead his students and colleagues into the classroom setting of tomorrow.
He converted the course into a hybrid format, combining two lectures per week with two weekly collaborative learning sessions in the Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL). The online exercises he developed for WisCEL help students build their knowledge and give them immediate feedback on their progress, while maximizing the amount of one-on-one time Morrow and his teaching assistants have with each student. In WisCEL, he can dedicate more of his time to helping students succeed at thinking through complex circuit analysis problems, step-by-step, than would ever be possible in a conventional lecture hall.
As a result, Morrow has risen quickly as a campus leader in using the collaborative learning space. “My first class in WisCEL was a resounding success from both my and the students’ viewpoint—due in large part to the advice and guidance Mike had given me,” says Barry Van Veen, the Lynn H. Matthias professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Moreover, Morrow’s course design has taught his students to embrace the principles of collaborative problem solving that will be critical to their success as engineers. “It showed us where our weaknesses were and built our teamwork,” says Al-Yaman Amin Amer, a junior who took ECE 230 in spring 2012.
Since he first came to UW-Madison in 2001, Morrow has demonstrated a deep commitment to bonding with his students, holding as many office hours as possible, and sharing stories from his own life to help students get to know him better. And Morrow’s embrace of the blended model has afforded him even more time in class to forge deeper, more personal connections with his students. That’s an enhancement to the undergraduate experience that can’t be quantified on paper, but certainly will pay dividends as students remember fondly a course that used to strike fear into the hearts of young electrical engineers.