Engineering Faculty Take Lab-Based Approach to Online Course

UT Austin's newest engineering MOOC, "Embedded Systems: Shape the World," will teach students how a variety of simple gadgets work.

embedded systems video

What do cell phones, cars, video games and microwaves all have in common? For one thing, they all use embedded systems — small computer systems that perform specific functions inside a much larger system.

This semester, anyone in the world can learn about embedded systems through one of The University of Texas at Austin’s newest massive open online courses (MOOCs), offered by edX. By the start of class on Jan. 22, more than 32,000 students had registered for “Embedded Systems: Shape the World.”

Taught by Cockrell School of Engineering faculty members Jonathan Valvano and Ramesh Yerraballi, both in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, “Embedded Systems” is based off their required course for electrical engineering students. Students registered for the online course will learn, through a lab-based approach, how a variety of simple gadgets work by completing tasks on their own microcontroller kits. At the end of the course, students will program an arcade-style video game.

“The decision to make [the course] lab-based was key to making sure we bring something unique to MOOCs in general and the edX platform in particular,” Yerraballi said. “We believe in learning by doing, and a lab-based approach is the best way to accomplish this.”

The course includes videos, assignments and interactive learning resources. The microcontroller kits will allow students to fully experience the concept of embedded systems by building and debugging these systems first-hand.

“We are hoping we will pique the interest of young kids and steer them toward engineering,” Yerraballi said, “and give a wide range of professionals and enthusiasts a foundation and resource that they can use as a launch pad to opportunities in embedded systems.”

For more information or to register, visit the “Embedded Systems: Shape the World” website.

"We believe in learning by doing, and a lab-based approach is the best way to accomplish this."

 

— Ramesh Yerraballi, "Embedded Systems" instructor and senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering