Animations and intelligent tutoring systems for programmable logic controller education Academic Article uri icon


  • Programmable logic controller (PLC) technology is central to the development of modern automated manufacturing systems. However, due to limited equipment availability, high student/ faculty ratios, limited lab access, and limited resources to support students outside labs and the classroom, many educational institutions do not provide the resources necessary to help students to become proficient with PLC technology. To alleviate some of these problems, an Integrated Virtual Learning System (IVLS) is being developed to teach about PLCs. The IVLS will be used to teach information students need to know about equipment before using it, so that lab time can be spent more productively and efficiently. In addition, unlike a human instructor, it will be available anytime, anywhere there is a computer connected to the Internet. IVLS lessons have thus far been developed to teach PLC applications; information flow from an external input device to a PLC processor image table to output devices; and PLC timer instructions. Three different timer instructions - Timer-on Delay (TON), Timer-Off Delay (TOF) and Retentive Timer On (RTO) - are covered. The lessons were developed using a combination of intelligent tutoring system, animation and presentation development tools. An evaluation of the lessons on timer instructions was conducted with 90 undergraduate manufacturing engineering students. Students made statistically significant learning gains as a result of taking the lessons, and rated them positively in terms of ease of use and understanding, clear objectives, amount of interaction, ability to motivate, relevance, and pace.

author list (cited authors)

  • Hsieh, S. J., & Hsieh, P. Y.

publication date

  • May 2003