Creative Education
2014. Vol.5, No.1, 7-10
Published Online January 2014 in SciRes (
Physical Concepts about Telecommunications Theory Focusing on
Knowledge Application
Oscar H. Salinas1, Angel Estrada Arteaga2, Martha E. Luna Ortíz1,
Marco A. Amado González1
1Academic Division of Information and Communication Te chnologies, Universidad Tecnológica
Emiliano Zapata del Estado de Morelos, Emiliano Zapata, México
2Software Development Center, Universidad Tecnológica Emiliano Zapata del Estado de Morelos, Emiliano
Zapata, México
Received November 6th, 2013; revised December 6th, 2013; accepted December 13th, 2013
Copyright © 2014 Oscar H. Salinas et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative C ommons
Attribution License, which pe rmits unrestricted use, distrib ution, and reprodu ction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
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2014 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Teaching telecommunications theory for Engineering Technologies Information students can be viewed
as an interesting challenge. This is mainly due to Telecommunications theory which integrates knowledge
about two basic sciences: physics and mathematics. The proposal explained in this paper focused on ob-
taining and deeply understanding the physical concepts related to the theory of telecommunications, ra-
ther than memorizing equations, which most of the time would not make sense for students. Engineering
students’ work focusing on learning the physical and mathematical concepts, was able to design and de-
velop academic tools with two important characteristics for Universities with low budget: easy to use and
inexpensive. T herefor e, the teaching-learning process is more efficient being adjusted to their endemic
circumstances about understanding, knowledge application and few economic resources. Moreover those
students were facing less problems understanding and handling the mathematical equations related to the
telecommunications theory. Following the proposed procedure, students have designed and built academ-
ic tools, such as videos, crosswords, C# applications, graphing on worksheets, and so on. To monitor
progress weekly, evaluation was conducted using questionnaires without equations, which were evaluated
by the students themselves. Electronic and pedagogical tools were combined to design specific audiovi-
sual aids to facilitate and assure that students were obtaining and retaining those physical and mathemati-
cal concepts before starting the equations handling. A comparison was done about groups working under
two scenarios: the one described above and the other called in this report “traditional”. A drastic differ-
ence about students grades between two groups was observed.
Keywords: Physics; Telecommunications; Electromagnetic Theory; Pedagogical; Software; Learning
Learning telecommunications theory is not an easy task for
young students of Engineering of Information Technologies.
Like any other technological field, it is based on Physics and
Mathematics science. Telecommunications theory can be un-
derstood by knowing their physical phenomena and mathemat-
ical equations related to it. The complexity of the theory behind
the telecommunications theory could be based on the fact that it
integrates different knowledge disciplines working together,
which gives a very interesting and challenging field to know.
For example, for Engineering Technologies Information stu-
dents, it is very hard to understand that electronics is a branch
of physics (Tan, 2010), and unfortunately, for some of them,
most of the c urrent teleco mmunication s syste ms are ba sed on elec-
tronics devices. Telecommunications systems are formed basi-
cally by three components, transmitter, channel of transmission
or propagation, and receiver. Learning about how each of them
works depends on the conceptualization of the theory behind
them. For most of the students, the understanding concepts of
phys i c s behind the data transmission, propagation and reception,
and the relationship between them and their related mathemat-
ics, is not as easy as it can be read. In the field of wireless tele-
communications, the communication channel is mainly the air,
so the communication between the transmitter and receiver is
through antennas. The antenna behavior and wireless commu-
nication are described by electromagnetic theory (García et al.,
2010; Leppavirta et al., 2011). Understanding concepts about
electronics and electromagnetic theory give Engineering Tech-
nologies Information students a deep overview about their ap-
plication field. A deep understanding of concepts is very im-
portant before starting handling mathematical equations. There
is a lot of work developed to enhance the teaching-learning
process in this academic field (Tan, 2010; G arcía et al., 2010;
Leppavirta et al., 2011, Fernández-Sánchez et al., 2011; Hinojo et
al., 2011; Weyten et al., 2011; Vergata, 2012; Chen et al., 2010;
Linn et al., 2012; Taslidere, et al. 2011; Dawy et al., 2010),
such as interactive laboratories (Fernández-Sánchez et al., 2011;
Hinojo et al., 2011; Weyten et al., 2011; Vergata , 2012), low
cost laboratories where students can put hands on practice
(Chen et al., 2010; Linn et al., 2012; Taslidere et al., 2011),
applications for mobile handsets (Dawy et al., 2010), are some
of the creative ideas. On the other hand, students must feel
interested and motivated to learn a specific topic or subject of
their academicals program. This also includes another learning
area like mathematics (Salinas, 2013). The motivation aspect is
part of the professor’s job; they must have different tools or
ways to stimulate student interest. Another important aspect is
the student’s involvement; students must be part of the teach-
ing-learning process, acting not as a passive element, but as an
active one. Combination of these two key aspects gives the
students a wide open picture about what they are learning. An
efficient way to do it is based on student’s hands on tools
hardware or software, so they can stimulate themselves interest
in the topic that they are learning. Working under this scenario,
students are able by themselves to do the possible practical
applications of the theory they have been reviewed. Neverthe-
less in some countries the universities budgets are not sufficient
to have high tech laboratories. This is why professors and stu-
dents need to work together and make their imagination their
main tool to design efficient and low cost tools for academic
Two groups were selected to perform the test concept: one
working under the proposal scenario and the other one working
under a scenario called traditional in this report. The proposal
scenario was described above, and the traditional includes the
following characteristics: Professor teaches the corresponding
topic of the subject and students take notes, i.e they just act as
knowledge receptors; professor solves some academic problems
on the blackboard; students solve another academic problems
either individually or in team; professor leaves some homework
that review it and grade it later; professor applies the written
exam according with the date scheduled. Under this scenario
there are no conditions for student’s motivation and no student
involvement in the teaching-learning process. The proposal sce-
nario involves the student in a more intimate way, becoming
the responsible of its own learning. The purpose is not just in-
volving the students in their learning process, but they also can
be able to develop some academic tools, for them and for the
next generations. There is not a sequence or a recipe about the
tools design and development process, professor must keep in
mind that students have different learning skills, even though
they are reviewing the same topic. Therefore academic tools
must be designed by them, based on the best way they can work
developing tools to understand the concepts behind theory or
equations. The response variable to compare the level of con-
cepts understanding was the grades they obtain solving a tradi-
tional exam, it means an exam containing some academic and
practical problems. They needed to demonstrate that they were
able to identify the necessary theoretical tools to solve both
kinds of problems. The proposal hypothesis is that it can be
achieved as easy as they have a deep understanding of Physical
The deliverables of the activities from students includes: C#
applications, Figure 1, academic videos explaining a specific
topic, Figure 2 (Morelos, Youtube, 2011; Morelos, 2012;
Morelos, Youtube, 2011; Morelos, Youtube, 2011; Morelos,
Youtube, 2011; Morelos, Youtube, 2011; Morelos, Youtube,
2012), crosswords puzzles containing all the concepts reviewed,
Figure 3, graphics in spreadsheet explaining the meaning of a
key point in the graph, Figure 4. For example about the optical
fiber, it’s very important to understand the properties of light,
specifically the total internal reflection phenomenon and there-
fore the critical angle, that is calculated with (following the
Snell’s Law),
Working in this way, students who have skills for developing
Figure 1.
Calculator of critical angle, path length traversed and number of
reflections inside of an optical fiber.
Figure 2.
Video explaining basic concepts about satellite telecommunications.
Figure 3.
Electromagnetic wave parame ter s concepts in a crossword puzzle.
Figure 4.
Antenna minimum losses condition on a graphical demonstration.
software tools were able to identify by themselves that is very
helpful for them to develop a basic calculator, Figure 1. The
difference with some of the ones available is that this one is
designed and tailored of the necessities of their own academic
environment. The basic calculator was developed to calculate
some important parameters about telecommunications systems
based on optical fiber. The first calculation of the C# applica-
tion is the critical angle. For the optical fiber, n2 and n1 are the
refractive index of the cladding and core, respectively. There is
an important concept behind the critical angle equation: n2 must
be lower than n1; otherwise calculation tool gives a mathemati-
cal error. Student must understand this concept and the reason
why a mathematical error is obtained if the condition is not
accomplished. C# Application must alert the user about possi-
ble errors introducing data, asking the classic question: “Are
you sure about the data?for example. C# application also
calculates the path length traversed and the number of reflec-
tions inside the optical fiber. It helps students to understand
deeply the total internal reflection concept and how the optical
fiber works.
Students also make some academic videos explaining with
their own words some basic concepts about satellite telecom-
munications systems (Morelos, Youtube, 2011). Figure 2
shows an example of them. Videos have two academic purpos-
es: one is just for general explanation about a specific tele-
communication system (Morelos, Youtube, 2011), and the oth-
er one is like video tutorials, explaining the topics or how to do
a graphic in a worksheet (Morelos, Youtube, 2012).
Another tool developed by the students was the crossword
puzzle designing, one of them is showed in Figure 3. Students
must describe the word to be written using colloquial language;
it means not the one found in the literature but the one they use
to speak.
About antenna behavior is necessary to understand the elec-
tromagnetic theory, in some universities it is coursed in more
than one semester (Leppavirta et al., 2011), so there is a lot of
time to get the whole theory. In this case students must learn
about antenna behavior in about six weeks. Therefore it is very
important to focus in the main antenna parameters and the con-
cepts behind them. Sometimes this is done by designing a virtual
wireless system (Hinojo et al., 2011), virtual signal analysis
(Vergata, 2012), building the whole wireless telecommunication
system (Chen et al., 2010), or a low cost laboratory for specific
frequency range (Linn et al., 2012; Taslidere et al., 2011; Dawy
et al., 2010). However before doing that it is very important to
understand an important parameter about antenna behavior, the
impedance (Z, units in Ohms). Impedance depends on the oper-
ating frequenc y as d escribed by,
where Z is the magnitude of impedance, R is the resistance (real
part of impedance), f is frequency, L is the associated induc-
tance and C is the associated capacitance. The point marked as
f0 (resonance frequency) in the graph, Figure 4, is the main
purpose for making the graph. The important concept in this
case is the meaning of Z = R (Morelos, Youtube, 2011). Stu-
dents must keep in mind why antenna impedance is equal to its
resistance and what are the implications about antenna perfor-
mance. At that point the total reactance (imaginary part of the
impedance) is zero: the associated inductance and the capacit-
ance have the same value and eliminated each other (Morelos,
Youtube, 2012). When students observe graphically that there
is a point when occurs minimum impedance, they are able to
relate it with a minimum losses condition by themselves.
Therefore the concept of resonance frequency is easier to be
understood. Once this concept and the other ones related to it
are deeply understood, applying software (Hinojo et al., 2011;
Vergata, 2012) or hardware (Linn et al., 2012; Taslidere et al.,
2011; Dawy et al., 2010) to design a wireless system is easier.
Students from the two groups were used as the experimental
sample; future work must be developed in the same aim to get
more data. Students from Group A were working under the
traditional scenario. Students from Group B were working un-
der the interactive model, developing academic tools as was
explained before. The response variable was the course grade of
each students’ group, Figure 5. The evaluation scale is: NA,
not approved (less than 8), SA = 8, DE = 9, A = 10, compared
with a zero to ten scales. SA means satisfactory performance,
DE means achiever performance, and AU self–sufficient per-
Figure 5.
Comparison of gr ades obtained from control and expe rimental group.
Results in the shadow rectangle are from Group B, the con-
trol one. A drastic difference between the two groups can be
observed. The exam is basically composed of problems that
involve handling of equations where the students need to un-
derstand what the problem is asking and what they need to
know to solve it. It means the student must have a deep under-
standing of physical concepts behind the equation. Most of the
students of control group have got NA, while the experimental
Ones are in SA average; it means focusing in the concepts helps
increase the understanding of the theory and therefore their
course grades. Around 2.4% of students from Group A have
obtained DE, while 15.8 % from Group B have obtained the
same grade. A drastic difference is founded analyzing this spe-
cific grade. From Group A 33.33% of students have approved
(grades above SA), on the other hand 73.7% of the students of
group B have approved, i.e. more than twice. Nevertheless just
1.32% of students achieve the AU grade. More work needs to
be done in the aim to increase the AU percentage, which basi-
cally means the students get involved in their learning process
as an active actor, and consequently they will get higher cour-
ses grades. It can be said that a combination of student motiva-
tion and their active involvement in the teaching-learning pro-
cess it is possible to improve their understanding of a topic as
difficult as telecommunications.
To all the students who have been designing and developing
the tools presented in this work and supporting the proposal, for
their really important feedback to improve some activities and
teaching techniques or suggesting others to be incorporated. To
all of the teachers that have done great efforts about the teach-
ing–learning process improvement, trying to design more effi-
cient academic tools and ease to use.
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