I teach VLSI in the school of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The further I explore hybridizing the course, the more I am persuaded that this is the best mode for teaching the material.
VLSI happens at the microscopic level. VLSI describes the circuitry that runs your phone or computer. We squeeze billions of devices into the area of a postage stamp. It is not rocket science. Most of the concepts are relatively straight forward. The difficult bit is gaining the intuition. We can’t assemble a VLSI chip in lab on an afternoon. One can’t view electrical current moving down a wire and sloshing back and forth until it reaches its level. Hence, VLSI circuits are designed poorly because engineers don’t have a sense of their scale. The inroads to the material are long dry chapters full of equations.
But there are a number of animations created by companies like Intel and Samsung that capture in a couple entertaining minutes what remains elusive in pages of formula. There are free tools that allow one to simulate, tinker, and get immediate feedback. Traditionally these moment of tinkering are done during two hour labs in large learning chunks, Online, one can slowly meter out bite size exercises. Also, it is a rapidly evolving field. One of the reading sources I will assign is the tech blog for the primary tool supplier for the industry. This will allow the class to stay relevant.