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Move Lab Class Online for Engineering Undergraduate Teaching
conference contributionposted on 2022-03-25, 08:58 authored by Hongjian Du
Traditional lab classes are usually tied to space and time constraints. However, the global outbreak of COVID-19 is now greatly affecting conventional lab activities. This study aims to provide undergraduate students new learning experience in participating lab class in the online environment. This online lab class is designed for CE3165 Structural Concrete Design offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore. The lab class is compulsory and contributes to 10% of the final assessment. The main purpose of this laboratory work is to illustrate the bending behaviour of reinforced concrete beams with respect to cracking, deflection, strength and ductility. In the past years, the lab class is physically conducted in the laboratory. However, the COVID pandemic has forced the university and laboratory to adopt strict safety distancing regulations. A group of more than five students is not possible anymore. Hence, since this semester of 2021, the instruction team has moved the lab class online to meet the safety requirement. The class is divided into six groups with 20 students in each group. A unique reinforced beam is assigned to different groups. The group witnesses the whole loading process and the failure pattern of the beam. All the experimental data is either recorded by computer or manually taken by Teaching Assistant. Experimental data is shared with students for them to complete the report. This study aims to investigate the effectiveness of the online lab class and the impact on students’ learning, as well as its strength and weakness.
The success of this online lab class is evaluated in terms of its educational effectiveness, students’ satisfaction rating and feedback. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were applied to evaluate the impact of this novel experiential learning. The effectiveness of educational outcomes is evaluated at a group and individual levels. Group learning outcomes will be evaluated primarily by the report after the experimentation. The collected answers from student will provide substantial information about their understanding of hard concepts in reinforced concrete structures. A numerical questionnaire was administered in the lab session to collect individual student’s responses to their experience in this online lab class. Students were asked to rate a set of questions in mainly three aspects, namely lab effectiveness, satisfaction and engagement. This is the most commonly used measure in previous studies of new educational technologies  because it allows the educator to understand students’ factual, behavioral and attitudinal information .
A total of 68 students provided their feedback to the online lab class. 68% of the students think the lab class helps their understanding very much. 29% of the students think the online lab class is helpful but to a limited extent. 3% of the students think the online lab class is not helpful. Students have provided very positive comments including: Pretty good, the camera angles were good, the close ups were very clear. The explanations by instructor was also very clear, the narration makes it feels like a documentary; the video was clear enough and the comments that you give explaining every activity is very useful. Some students expressed their preference of traditional lab class: really appreciate the effort but I think for better learning experience f2f lab classes are better; I was quite confused, a lot of waiting time.
From this study, it can be concluded that online lab class can offer students flexible access to the experiments in the current and future pandemics. This can greatly engage students who have limited access to the laboratory. The experience gained in this study is highly transferrable to other domains of STEM.