Cost-efficient hands-on learning design for computer organization course

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

15th International Conference on Computer Science and Education, ICCSE 2020

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Computer Organization, Hands-on Activities, Instructional Approach, Raspberry Pi and Python


© 2020 IEEE. This paper has probed an innovative hands-on activity for Computer Organization course with a cost-effective laboratory setting. A Computer Organization is one of the most important subjects for computer science (CS) students, because the subject focuses on fundamental relationship between hardware and software components in computer systems. Due to its importance, effective and appropriate pedagogies are required in this area. Simulation tools were widely used to visualize the processing of instructions and help understanding the concept of computer systems rather than teaching the concept with traditional lecture method. Teaching method combined with simulators has been issued on the table and raised an inquiry whether it really relates to meaningful student involvement or not. The use of hands-on activities has been shown to improve students' interest in and ability to understand course material. We designed a cost-effective laboratory setup and a set of hands-on activities for the course using low-cost single board computers, i.e. Raspberry Pi. This article introduces how to combine hardware components (e.g. wires, LEDs, resisters, breadboard, ICs) and Python programs to develop hands-on activities for the Computer Organization course. The survey results including fall 2018, spring 2019 and fall 2019 show that almost 90% of students prefer to learn through hands-on activities and the activities during the class helped improve their learning.

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