Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies
The benefits of undergraduate laboratories are well established for engineering disciplines. Undergraduate laboratories provide an environment for students to practice and improve skills such as critical thinking, teamwork and psychomotor skills. However, laboratories are very expensive to operate in terms of facilities, and staff time. They also require access to consumables and equipment. These barriers can prevent some universities from providing students with laboratory-based experiences, especially in countries where the required financial resources are hard to find.
Technological strategies have been developed to overcome some of these barriers associated with hands-on laboratories: virtual laboratories and remote laboratories, which are collectively referred to as VRLs, as well as portable hardware platforms. Virtual laboratories are computer simulations providing simulated data, while remote laboratories provide access to real equipment via the Internet, and therefore students can have access to real data. Portable hardware platforms are smaller apparatus with similar functions to standard laboratory equipment.
This paper presents an overview of the use of such methods with a focus on the African universities. The data are from interviews with faculty and students at a few universities in African countries, as well as findings from literature.
Some of the more prominent examples of each method such as the iLabs in Makerere University (Uganda), the Virtual Laboratories Project in India, and the Mobile Studio Board (Universities in Ethiopia) are discussed. These methods could provide students with valuable learning experience, which might not be available otherwise since there is no physical equipment. However, our analysis shows that certain challenges do hamper broader adaptation. The challenges include lack of reliable internet connection/ electricity, limited disciplines covered, and in some cases high costs.
The findings suggest that there is a need for yet more cost-effective, scalable solutions for students to perform laboratories in various disciplines in the countries examined. For now, it seems that a combination of these methods might be the best available solution, especially if universities can share portable apparatus, complemented by either simulations or remote laboratories. Determining the best approach also requires evaluating the pedagogical effectiveness of these methods within the context used.
Moozeh, K., & Ibrahim, N., & Rezaie, R., & Astatke, Y., & Metcalfe, M. R., & Evans, G. (2018, June), Alternative Approaches to Undergraduate Engineering Laboratory Experience for Low-income Nations Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/29767
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