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Development of a Virtual Wind Tunnel Lab during Covid-19 Pandemic
conference contributionposted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Pengcheng WangPengcheng Wang, Clarice Xiuling Lee
The digital transformation experienced in education over the last decade has brought about a paradigm shift in both the delivery of classes and the learning of our students. Innovative teaching pedagogies enhanced with technology has now extend beyond the physical walls of the classrooms and laboratories (Jakkula et al., 2020; Sharma & Ahluwalia, 2018). Physical laboratory experiments are an integral aspect of engineering education. At present, there is still an on-going debate in the literature as to how effective virtual labs can be used in Engineering Education (Hamed & Aljanazrah, 2020); and more critically, how does one design an effective learning environment that caters to the learning needs of the students for them to acquire the necessary practical skills and science inquiry ((Hamed & Aljanazrah, 2020; Lynch & Ghergulescu, 2017). Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, videos, animations and simulations have been developed and delivered through a blended approach to promote clarity in the understanding of engineering concepts and enable familiarity with laboratory requirements before students attempted the experiments (Joshi et al., 2021; Radhamani et al., 2021). The Wind Tunnel Interactive Package was originally developed to prepare students for the physical laboratory experiment. The objective was to explain the functions of the wind tunnel (Kapilan et al., 2020) and the test objects (in this case an airfoil analysis), so that students would be ready for the applied part of the course during the face-to-face laboratory session. This freely accessible package (known as V1) was developed as a preparatory content for the actual laboratory class to enhance the knowledge of the students (Chan & Fok, 2009) and to help them to be independent learners. From the faculty’s perspective, it is also economical without having to repeat the lab procedures multiple times to different groups of students. In anticipation of a highly likely pandemic-imposed lockdown (Tsutsui et al., 2021), a further effort was made to move the interactive package from a blended learning approach to an fully online learning approach (hereafter referred to as V2). This included the rearrangement of existing content and insertion of a simulation of the actual physical lab session, which enabled students to conduct the laboratory experiment entirely through the online platform, collect the data (Tsutsui et al., 2021) and conduct an analysis of the obtained results like they will do if it is a physical lab session. This work has given the team the opportunity to study the extent to which the interactive package could replace the physical laboratory experience. Feedback was gathered from two groups of Engineering students who attended the wind tunnel module as part of their course. The first group went through V1, while the second group went through V2 of the package. While majority of the students strongly agreed to the effectiveness of the interactive package in helping them understand the wind tunnel experiment, many were undecided whether the interactive package could fully replace the physical laboratory experience. This finding was similar to that found in (Kapilan et al., 2020; Sharma & Ahluwalia, 2018). Issues such as the necessity to experience the real lab equipment, instantaneous feedback from a faculty, and understanding of safety procedures were also brought up. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about much disruption and uncertainty in both teaching practices and learning responses (Radhamani et al., 2021). The feedback gathered from this online interactive package contributes to the ongoing discussion on how such online interactive packages can replace physical laboratory experience. This will provide practitioners/educators with informed decisions to build effective alternative solutions, enabled by technology, to fulfil learning requirements and enhance the learning experience.