Modeling Classroom Learning using Digital Communications and Vector Algebra

The following is the an article on learning and digital communications for an independent study course designed by 6 Olin College students in the Spring 2007 Semester. The six students involved in the course were: Mel Chua, Chris Dellin, Boris Dieseldorff, Chandra Little, Marco Morales, and Andy Pethan. For additional information on other Olin Student Courses see the Wikiversity page here.

Communications Theory meets Classroom Learning

In our communications module, we learned about a using wireless communications theory as a model for aclassroom. The basic idea considers a teacher as a transmitter and students as receivers. We believe that a great deal of insight into pedagogy can be gained by applying this model in an intelligent manner. In the following paper we attempt to apply this model with more rigor than was possible during class . The paper  Chris Dellin and I worked on looks at how teachers can more efficiently spend their time in class to teach a subset of students. Below is the abstract for the paper, which you can read in full and download here.


By using vector algebra and a simple channel characterization model, we describe a model for choosing between various teaching techniques in the classroom. We represent a teacher’s choice of techniques as a transmission vector in some abstract space analogous to the frequency space in a communications model. We also characterize a student’s receptivity to these techniques as a simple channel characterization gain. Using vector algebra, we explore some of the implications of this model and discuss future directions for application.

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