Asee peer logo

An Implementation of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELN) Using a Learning Management System Platform in an Undergraduate Experimental Engineering Course

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning through Laboratory Experiences

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.164.1 - 24.164.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Mary Cardenas Harvey Mudd College

visit author page

Dr. Cardenas earned her B.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State Engineering. She joined Rocketdyne as a propulsion engineer and worked on the Space Shuttle Main Engines, Atlas Engine, and the X-30 propulsion system. Dr. Cardenas received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Environmental and Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying the transport and fate of PCBs and sediments in the Saginaw River. She has been a member of the Engineering department at Harvey Mudd College since 1995, and has served as Associate Dean of Faculty for Academic Affairs. She is the co-author of the Journal of Engineering Education paper, "Use of "Studio" Methods in the Introductory Engineering Design Curriculum" and co-developer of the sophomore-level rocket-based experimental engineering lab course at HMC. Dr. Cardenas is currently exploring novel pedagogy for Introductory Environmental Engineering courses and researching marine hydrokinetic turbines.

visit author page

Download Paper |


An Implementation of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELN) Using a Learning Management System Platform in an Undergraduate Experimental Engineering CourseExperimental Engineering is a sophomore-level, semester-long course, involving multipleexperiments covering a number of engineering disciplines. The primary purpose of the course isto teach basic instrumentation and measurement techniques; good lab notebook practice;technical report writing; analysis and presentation of data; the usage of experimental results forengineering design purposes; and the beginnings of professional practice. During the 2011-2012academic year, we implemented a transition from paperbound laboratory notebooks (PLNs) toelectronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) in this course.ELNs are computer-based solutions for creating, storing, retrieving, and sharing electronic files.Such electronic records are now considered equivalent to paper-based records, when it comes topatent filing as well as other legal and technical issues. Advantages of ELNs include the abilityto search electronically; electronic linkage and storage of potentially large data files (includingnewer types of electronic files, such as video); and increased accessibility and collaborativefunctions. A number of different software solutions are available, usually grouped by technicalfield and potential application of the work.Using the learning management system platform Sakai, and typical word processing andspreadsheet-based programs, students submitted all their lab work into an electronic drop box.Faculty and teaching assistants used the gradebook functions of Sakai to store and release grades.We have assessed laboratory notebooks from the previous four years of the course, specificallyexamining the submission of raw data; schematics of test set-ups; equipment lists; and ability tocompare experimental data to literary values on the same graphical plot. For both PBNs andELNs, a significant portion of students did not report raw data in tabular form, or reported rawdata only sporadically. Although we assumed that students using PLBs would utilize them tosketch schematics, this was not always the case. Sketches were missing from ELNs as well, butsome students used the electronic format to include photos from mobile phones. Equipment listsin both paper and electronic format generally tended to be incomplete. Neither format seemed tohave an impact on whether students plotted literature values on the same plot as experimentaldata. We plan to use these assessment results to improve students’ performance on goodlaboratory notebook practice.

Cardenas, M. (2014, June), An Implementation of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELN) Using a Learning Management System Platform in an Undergraduate Experimental Engineering Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20055

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015