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Evaluating the impact of students’ engagement levels in virtual laboratories of electronics modules

conference contribution
posted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Arturo Molina-Cristobal, Fan Hong, Idris Lim, Christian Della, Jolly Atit Shah, Duncan Bremner, Vicki Dale, Nicole Kipar
Moving away from face-to-face (F2F) to virtual laboratory (VL) has impacted our teaching practices and students experience. With increasing numbers of students on stay home notices due to health risk alerts and warnings, online blended learning has been implemented for physical laboratory sessions, whenever the circumstances permit. In these situations, achieving the learning outcomes has become more challenging. It has been reported (Philips and Goryll, 2020) that the remote and VL teaching has often resulted in the loss of mentorship, community, peer motivation, and overall student engagement has been diminished. These challenges lead us to investigate how we can motivate our students and increase their engagement in VLs to achieve the learning outcomes. This study intends to provide practical answers to this question by identifying what aspects of the VL session increase students’ engagement levels. A survey on 150 students’ engagement is conducted on the virtual electronics laboratories, designed for students in their first and second year of studies, respectively. The VLs have been designed to enable students to: 1. work in teams and have peer discussions to develop critical thinking. 2. use computer-based simulations to facilitate the application of theoretical concepts. 3. use equipment to conduct experimental design activities and provide hands-on experience.

To evaluate student engagement, a survey was designed using concepts of emotional and cognitive engagement (Fredricks et al., 2004) and Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Ryan and Deci, 2017). A growing body of evidence indicates that emotional engagement positively influences cognitive engagement. Therefore, an essential aspect of developing VLs sessions will be incorporating elements of emotional engagement to ensure that cognitive engagement is achieved. SDT offers a framework for understanding the conditions under which students are likely to become emotionally engaged in their work. These are three psychological needs: Autonomy, the need to feel ownership of one’s behaviour (choice), Competence, the need to produce desired outcomes and to experience mastery (confidence), and Relatedness, the need to feel connected to others (social presence). The survey will be carried out in two parts: a pre-session in Week 7 and a post-sessional questionnaire concluded in Week 10. The objectives are: (1) to measure the students’ perception on whether the learning outcomes have been achieved. (2) to obtain insights regarding cognitive and emotional engagement, preferred working formats in laboratories, and advantages of collaborating in groups. The pre-sessional questionnaire, based on F2F laboratory experience, intends to obtain a baseline measure of engagement levels and achievement of learning outcomes that the student perceives. In the post-sessional questionnaire, the objective is to re-evaluate students’ engagement levels to determine any change in the engagement levels of the VLs and what elements of the new setting impacted the achievement of learning outcomes.

We have analysed the response of the pre-sessional survey using multivariate analysis. The results show that 88% students with a high level of cognitive engagement agree or strongly agree that the following two learning outcomes are important: (1) the laboratory improves their critical thinking and (2) the ability to identify the strengths and limitations of theoretical models as predictors of natural physical behaviours. Furthermore, the analysis shows that working in groups facilitates achieving these objectives, and the 89% students also agree or strongly agree that relatedness (social presence) is the most important of the three SDT needs. Finally, we plan to conduct the post-sessional survey to measure the impact of the VLs and present the complete analysis in the final version of this work. Preliminary conclusion The study will measure the impact of VL on student engagement and identify which learning activities of the VLs best influence emotional and cognitive engagement.


Journal/Conference/Book title

Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

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