Teaching with MATLAB in the Modern Classroom
MATLAB is rooted in education, historically enabling students to implement, evaluate, and explore their understanding of course concepts. To continue to meet the ever-increasing demand for graduates with strong technical and problem-solving skills, MathWorks has developed several cloud-based tools to afford instructors and students anytime, anywhere access to their course content. In this webinar, you will learn how these tools fit together to support your course development and delivery workflow, and how to enlist their immediate use in the classroom.
We will discuss how to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow by:
- Challenging students using real-world problems with hardware, IoT, and MATLAB Online™
- Empowering students to take ownership of their own learning with self-paced courses, MATLAB® Apps, and interactive programming using Live Scripts
- Mentoring students at scale with automated assessment and feedback in MATLAB Grader™
- Connecting students with the community by participating in student competitions and the MATLAB user community
Published: 16 Oct 2019
As educators we want to prepare students for the jobs that are in demand. But what are the emerging fields that we are seeing in industry? Current trends are in fields like robotics and machine learning.
However, the question isn’t, “How do we teach students to solve the problems of today?” The real question is, “How do we empower them to learn independently so they can succeed in the jobs of tomorrow?”
Various studies have shown that the future landscape will be very different from today and traditional methods may not be enough in preparing students. It’s been suggested that rather than focusing our efforts on memorizing, we should be teaching how to learn. And furthermore, is the traditional classroom adequate in reinforcing such learning or, as educators, do we also need to be empowered? Is the traditional classroom sufficient—
Or is it broken? And yes, the title is intentionally provocative. <click> These are just sample voices from a growing audience of educators who recognize the limits of the traditional classroom.
Universities are also recognizing that traditional methods may not be enough. They are investing heavily in classroom technologies that encourage collaborative learning, hands-on experimentation, and creative problem solving. These are techniques that encourage students to own their learning and develop the skills necessary to succeed in the future. But how do you make the most of these resources? And how will we engineer the future by educating our students today?
There are four steps here that are critical to preparing students to solve the problems of tomorrow. And we’ll be discussing each of them and offering ideas and resources to save you time while increasing student engagement.
In an ideal world, we’d like to do all four of these things in our classrooms.
We want to challenge our students with the problems they’ll face in the real world. As a result of rising to these challenges, students will be empowered to take ownership of their own learning. They will have a deep understanding of how to use all the tools you’ve taught them.
Throughout this process, we want to mentor our students—help them learn and succeed at their own starting point and at own pace. And, finally, our students won’t work in isolation. In order to succeed in the workforce, they must successfully work with others and effectively communicate their ideas.
So, let’s start at the beginning. But before we can talk about challenging our students, we must understand how students, and people in general, learn. And how different learning modalities encourage a mindset of continuous learning.
How do we break down student learning? I’ve listed formal, social, and experiential learning, but are they equally effective? Is it 33% across the board?
Turns out experiential learning is the most effective technique for learning. However, traditional methods of teaching lean on formal learning. If formal learning only caters to a small portion of the learning process, how can we get past it and leverage technology to expand on the classroom learning experience? What this study tells us is that we—we learn by doing and making mistakes. This is learning by being an active participant rather than a passive observer. We’re going to discuss how we can increase student engagement by challenging students with hands-on, real-world experiential learning. This will increase retention of concepts and keep students engaged in the material.
A common trend we’re seeing is adding projects that incorporate hardware to courses. It challenges students to learn by doing and thereby improving student engagement. Due to the breadth of hardware support from MathWorks, students can learn concepts and tools that are used in the real world on real data. Being able to use hardware has become such an important skill that industry has developed low-cost hardware for use in the classroom. MathWorks supports various hardware, including mobile phones.
With so many concepts to cover in one course, what if we could integrate various concepts at once? This enables students to solve more complex problems, thus challenging them to think outside the box and gain a deeper understanding of how these concepts fit together.
This is what Simulink allows you to do. With Simulink, students can model entire systems and learn how each piece affects the overall design. Before moving to the hardware, students can explore and implement more sophisticated designs without having to write code. Simulation allows students to explore the behavior of the system without worrying about making mistakes. After all, there is much to be learned by making mistakes. MATLAB and Simulink work together to create a total design environment.
Since you probably won’t be deploying code to a self-driving car during class, here are some examples of other projects that integrate multiple concepts. There are various levels of complexity that we can consider from simple line following to advanced self-balancing and drawing robots. To support educators, we have partnered with Arduino to offer a kit that enables you to teach engineering as a system rather than one concept at a time. There are three projects that are included with the kit and they use a combination of MATLAB and Simulink. We just saw the drawing robot in action, but there is also a self-balancing motorcycle and mobile rover included.
So far, we’ve talked about how our workflow enables the design and deployment of a single embedded device.
Now what if I want to monitor, analyze, and take action on data from remote devices? For example, how can we monitor environmental data from a remote area? How can we monitor how my products are performing in the field?
Then, I want to be able to connect those devices into a larger system that enables data collection, communication with other devices, and data analysis. Our Internet of Things web service, ThingSpeak, lowers the barrier to connecting embedded devices, allowing you to teach students how to work with real world data.
You can set up your own channels, access data from colleagues, or use public channels. What does a ThingSpeak project look like?
No one likes sitting in traffic, so we used a Raspberry Pi, a web cam, and ThingSpeak to analyze traffic on a busy highway. With Simulink, we designed and deployed a traffic-monitoring algorithm to the Raspberry Pi, and we analyzed and visualized the traffic patterns using ThingSpeak and MATLAB. This is a public channel that you can access and use in class. If you’re interested in incorporating ThingSpeak, our website is a great repository for such code examples.
ThingSpeak is one offering in our family of cloud computing products. MATLAB Online is a convenient way to use MATLAB without having to download or install any software, and we provide the compute power, maintenance, and support. The interface is very similar to locally installed MATLA—with the convenience of running the latest version in a web browser.
In terms of storage, every user gets 5GB of space on MATLAB Drive. Your data and code is available to you on all your devices including your tablet or mobile phone through MATLAB Mobile. MATLAB Mobile allows you to use your smartphone for running MATLAB code. You can interact with MATLAB Desktop and Drive. It also allows access to raw data from your smartphone sensors that can be leveraged for various applications. Rather than consistently reminding students to put away their phones, imagine if you could use the phone as a tool! For example, you can use the sensor data from mobile phones to design projects such as steps counters.
So far, we’ve discussed ideas for challenging students. But each student has different skill sets and different needs. They have different starting points and learn at their own pace. How do we empower our students to take ownership of their own learning? How do we give them the tools necessary to succeed in the classroom? Fostering an environment that encourages a growth mindset sets students up for success well after they graduate and prepares them for lifelong learning—a skill necessary for the modern jobs of tomorrow.
Self-paced training allows students to spend as much time learning concepts as they need. They’re guided through the material and learn at their own pace. In addition, you don’t have to spend valuable class time teaching MATLAB and can focus on your course content. We offer a variety of courses, from the basics of programming to deep dives into advanced topics. I’d like to call out MATLAB Onramp and Simulink Onramp here. They’re great for getting students started quickly. Many instructors assign these Onramps as a first homework or a suggested refresher.
What if your course material could also be self-paced and interactive? Your students could gain a deeper understanding of the material because they would be able to learn it at their own pace. Live Editor is more than just code. It allows you to create a narrative around that code to help guide students. Rather than switching between content and code, all the material is in one document, allowing students to concentrate on the material rather than trying to match up course notes with lines of code.
Another way to guide students through a workflow is to use apps. They are a great way for students to interact with the material and gain intuition before “looking under the hood” and being overwhelmed by equations. Once students gain intuition with the material, they can generate code right from the app and understand how the work they did in a graphical user interface, translates to a programmatic workflow.
What happens if you want to teach something for which we don’t have an app?
You can create your own. App Designer lets you drag and drop the visual components of your graphical user interface and has an integrated editor to quickly program the components behavior. Students can also test their understanding of concepts by creating their own apps. In addition, you can create and share standalone applications.
So far, we’ve been discussing how to empower your students with the right tools for success. I’d like to change it up a little and discuss how we empower you, the instructor, to succeed.
Faculty around the world have been using MW tools for teaching in different disciplines for decades. Our courseware page contains course materials created by your peers.
There’s material like course outlines, downloadable assignments, videos, lectures, and more. These course materials are hosted on the creator’s end—who you could partner with directly if you like.
There’s material on different topics like intro to programming, and of course various domains in engineering and sciences. As computational approaches and tools have become more popular in sciences in the last couple of decades, so has the use of MATLAB!
In fact, MATLAB is popular in sciences, that we have separate pages of resources dedicated to teaching different topics like physics, chemistry, calculus, biology, geosciences, and more.
Remember the self-paced training we spoke of earlier? We offer a similar training for instructors. You can get guided hands-on experience with the resources we discuss in this webinar. As with the other trainings, you can work at your own pace.
There has been a lot of interest in individualized learning. This means that throughout the learning process, students should be mentored and have individualized attention. But how do we deliver the feedback the students need in a scalable way?
Traditionally, students submit a homework and wait a few weeks before they receive feedback. By then, they are likely to be working on the next assignment. Realistically, few students will review old homework and try to improve on their solutions.
Instead, imagine if you could give instant feedback and the students could improve on a solution and learn from their mistakes.
This is what MATLAB Grader allows you to do. MATLAB Grader helps you create MATLAB assignments that can be automatically graded online for instant feedback. This is particularly useful for introductory gateway courses where hundreds or even thousands of students are enrolled.
It is also possible to integrate MATLAB Grader to your university's Learning Management system like Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, etc. This allows the learning and homework content to be made available within one environment.
So MATLAB Grader allows you two options:
You can create your private course hosted on the MATLAB Grader Website which students can access using their MathWorks Account or, with a licensed offering, create MATLAB Grader problems within your LMS.
So far we’ve discussed how to challenge, empower, and mentor students within a classroom, but how can we encourage students to grow their network and interact with the community as a whole? <click>
Student competitions are a great way to get students involved. We support dozens of student competitions worldwide each year in all kinds of fields, including automotive, aerospace, robotics, and biotech.
At the Formula Student Germany competition, over 100 teams use our products to simulate strategies, analyze performance, and implement controllers.
RoboBoat challenges students to develop a boat that can autonomously navigate through a series of channel markers.
And RoboCup is a global competition where students field teams of autonomous robots in simulated soccer matches.
Another way to participate in the community is to visit MATLAB Central. Here you’ll find experts discussing the latest features. There are community posts where you can ask questions, or answer ones posted by other MATLAB users.
But how do we ensure access of these computational tools to the students and faculty in an effective way? The idea really is not to confine students to computer labs alone to ensure access.
Universities have a MATLAB Portal in form of a private landing page hosted by MathWorks that gives a self-service solution from login to software download and getting started on different resources.
MATLAB Campus-Wide License is a key enabler for this. Four million students in over 1,300 universities today can access MATLAB anytime anywhere from their personal machines.
If you have any questions, you should reach out to your customer success team at MathWorks by emailing email@example.com. Specifically, we work with faculty and researchers to support curriculum updates, contribute to industry advisory boards, and advise on latest technology for multidisciplinary research and commercialization efforts.
As a reminder, to get guided hands-on experience with many of the resources we discussed here, I encourage you to try our instructor training.
Thank you for attending this webinar.
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