June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.139.1 - 22.139.16
Adaption of a Virtual Laboratory Curriculum: A Preliminary Study of Implementation at Other InstitutionsTransportability is a widespread goal of education research and curriculum development. It isadvocated by funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and isspecifically emphasized in the new Transforming Undergraduate Education, in Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES) Program, which requires transportability as amain component for funding of proposals. Often developers of curricular interventions providesuggestions for implementation, curricular materials, and support; however, one aspectcommonly missing is more reflective and evidence-based description of the implementationprocess as technical and pedagogical innovations move from the institution at which they weredeveloped to other institutions with different faculty, different students and a different culture.This paper describes the adaption of a virtual laboratory curriculum from its home university toother institutions. While the primary emphasis will be the transfer to other universities, data highschools and community colleges will also be presented. In a virtual laboratory, students do notinteract with real equipment to obtain data, but rather with computer simulations of laboratoryequipment, obscured by noise. The virtual laboratory was developed with the intent of allowingfuture engineers to practice the skills they will need in industry, in much the same way a flightsimulator is used for training pilots. The idea of using virtual laboratories to facilitate projectbased learning is compelling since, once the software has been developed, the cost to transfer itis relatively small, consisting mostly of developing faculty expertise.The aspects of transfer specifically studied include differences in project context, objectives,timeline, and assignments at the participating institutions, as well as student and facultyperceptions. Data sources include two broad categories: (i) artifacts of implementation (e.g.,lesson plans, project assignments and student work products), and (ii) participant perceptions(e.g., student and faculty survey responses and audio recordings, transcripts, and notes of semi-structured interviews). The initial interpretation presented in this paper focuses on both thesuccessful aspects and the troublesome aspects of the transfer and adaption process. This paperfocuses on a subset of a larger investigation on student learning in virtual laboratories.
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