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“Examining the Changing Perceptions of Graduate Students’ Role as Teaching Assistant with Online and Hybrid Labs during COVID-19” (Instruction)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 5

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Jennifer Shaffer Brown Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Jennifer Brown earned her Master's in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University in 2020 and received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and B.A. in German from Georgia Southern University in 2017. Her primary research foci include ultrasonic soldering and nanoparticle-reinforced solders, as well as exploring the roles of feedback and graduate teaching assistants in improving undergraduate engineering education.

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The transition from traditionally face-to-face “in-person” courses to hybrid/online laboratory courses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered how these labs are delivered in the mechanical engineering curriculum at . This paper seeks to capture the graduates’ and undergraduates’ changing perceptions of the roles and responsibilities that graduate laboratory assistants (GLAs) have in the delivery of course material within the context of this transition. GLAs from the mechanical engineering laboratory courses were invited to participate in a survey to provide feedback on how they perceived their own roles and responsibilities as GLAs for in-person labs compared to their roles after the labs had transitioned to hybrid/fully-online formats after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Junior- and senior-level undergraduate mechanical engineering students currently enrolled in a hybrid/online lab were also invited to participate in a survey to provide similar feedback on how they perceived their GLAs pre- and post-transition to hybrid/online lab modality. The analysis of the survey responses then informed the selection of two experienced GLAs to participate in more in-depth individual interviews to share their experiences during this transition and discuss best practices for moving forward. An overarching theme of the results was that while undergraduate students consistently viewed their GLAs’ roles as those of graders, knowledge resources, and facilitators, the GLAs began to identify strongly as facilitators only after the transition to hybrid/online labs. Interview participants expressed frustration with the lack of meaningful interaction with students in the hybrid/online course modality that warred with their desire to help students grow and think more deeply about course material. Both undergraduate students and GLAs alike agreed on a need for change in several key aspects of the hybrid/online lab delivery in order to improve its sustainability as a lab course modality.

Brown, J. S. (2021, July), “Examining the Changing Perceptions of Graduate Students’ Role as Teaching Assistant with Online and Hybrid Labs during COVID-19” (Instruction) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36532

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