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A Colloquy On Learning Objectives For Engineering Education Laboratories

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Accreditation and Related Issues in ECE

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.20.1 - 7.20.12



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Paper Authors

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Lyle Feisel

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George Peterson

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A Colloquy on Learning Objectives For Engineering Education Laboratories

Lyle D. Feisel, Ph.D., P.E., George D. Peterson, Ph.D., P.E.

Dean Emeritus (Ret.), Watson School of Engineering, State University of New York at Binghamton/Executive Director, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology

Abstract As distance learning programs become more prevalent and as we begin to offer undergraduate engineering programs in a distance format, the question of laboratories and their role in engineering education becomes increasingly important. There is an ongoing debate about whether a remote laboratory experience can really accomplish the goals of educational laboratories. This leads, then, to the question of what are the true goals of a laboratory experience. This question has been addressed before, but not extensively in the context of distance education or with regard to the massive computing power that now enables highly sophisticated simulations. In January 2002, ABET, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, held a colloquy to explore this issue. This paper reports the preliminary conclusions of that colloquy.

Introduction The face of the college-going student is changing. The majority of baccalaureate students are no longer fresh from high school and taking up residence on campus. They are more often commuter students, transitional students who begin their higher education at community colleges, and mature part-time students working their way through school. In response to this growing group of non-traditional students, many institutions are attempting to increase access to programs by experimenting with alternative educational delivery systems. Some courses employ correspondence study, for instance, others one-way and two-way audio, video, or internet-based learning. Many are using a combination of both. In some cases, distance education may be as near as the on-campus residence halls, the library, a student’s bedroom, or his or her workplace.

One of the unique features of an educational program in a practice-oriented discipline such as engineering is that of the live, hands-on laboratory and design experience. If a distance education delivery mechanism is asynchronous (delivered without a real-time class session) and does not include this laboratory experience, it raises questions. Can the instructional objectives of the laboratory be achieved without the hands-on, practice-oriented experiences? But, more importantly, what are the expected outcomes of these practice-oriented experiences in the curriculum? Can we define the attributes of engineering graduates that are developed or enhanced by a hands-on laboratory experience? Could those attributes also be developed or enhanced through a program offered via distance education?

ABET, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and many others invested in the quality of education in the practice-oriented professions have been mulling over these questions for some time. In order

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Feisel, L., & Peterson, G. (2002, June), A Colloquy On Learning Objectives For Engineering Education Laboratories Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11246

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