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Scenario Based Learning Methods for STEM

The Navy and Marine Corp require a workforce with Electronic Warfare (EW) knowledge and experience, which is not broadly taught in academia, nor is it sufficiently addressed in industry. This project includes an academically rigorous electrical engineering (EE) Communications course that includes EW to be developed in cooperation with Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane, whereby EW becomes an integral part of the entire curriculum. The student is offered a more rigorous and realistic understanding of the challenges of communications, and from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) perspective the next generation of STEM workforce will be trained to understand and deal with the complexities of communications in a congested and contested environment.

Further, with only 40% of intended STEM majors in the United States completing their degrees currently, there is a shortfall of over one million college graduates relative to anticipated workforce needs. Students who do not complete their intended STEM major attribute their departure to various factors including a “cold” classroom and academic climate, difficulty with conceptual understanding, lack of self-efficacy, and a lack of interest in the material. This project addresses the contributing factors for this low completion rate with a redesigned course that combines well-established scenario-based learning methods with targeted self and peer assessment through alternative analysis.

Redesigned Course for Scenario-Based Learning Methods Requirements

In this project, the Co-PIs have developed a pilot for a joint classroom/laboratory curriculum in which lecture is based on realistic scenarios and laboratory exercises are based on implementation and self and peer assessment through alternative analysis. The approach involves modifying Notre Dame’s current fourth-year undergraduate wireless communications course. The course will present EW/interference as a means of revealing and exploiting weaknesses in wireless communications waveforms.

The Redesigned Course is based on the following methodologies deemed to be effective for the Scenario-Based Learning Methods:

  • Meaningful Experiential Learning: Enhanced hands-on learning via laboratory scenarios developed in collaboration with subject-matter experts
  • Authentic Learning Evaluation/Alternative Analysis/Red-teaming: A progressively sophisticated iterative approach to laboratory exercises, which we call “build-it, break-it, build-it better”, whereby students will operate from the designer perspective [what we call the blue-team], then from the evaluator perspective [what we call the red-team], and finally from a broader designer perspective.

In addition to the rigorous theoretical foundation, laboratory exercises based on a multi-element phased array driven by USRP software defined radios (SDR) will provide hands-on experience to apply the theory and build confidence in the practical application of the material. The curriculum and laboratory setup will be available and packaged for easy and low-cost deployment.

Sponsors and Investigators

The Scenario-Based Learning Methods project will start in 2017 and is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) via Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane. The University of Notre Dame has requested over half a million dollars over three years to develop curriculum and laboratory modules, pilot the course, coordinate with Crane on deployment and other aspects.

The Scenario-Based Learning Methods is a Wireless Institute multi-PI project, co-developed by Jonathan Chisum and J. Nicholas Laneman.