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From Social Distancing to Enhanced Learning in the Laboratory

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2021 Fall ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Meeting


Virtually Hosted by the section

Publication Date

November 12, 2021

Start Date

November 12, 2021

End Date

November 13, 2021

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Alison Rose Kennicutt York College of Pennsylvania Orcid 16x16

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Alison is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania. She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering and her M. Eng. and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Her research interests are in drinking water treatment of emerging contaminants and the production of disinfection byproducts. At York College, Alison loves to use hands-on exploration, both in the field and the lab, to trigger curiosity and get students excited about engineering!

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The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly remain an infamous landmark in the world of higher education. While every area of education was impacted, overcoming the challenges of reduced capacity, remote learning, etc. was a particular challenge in laboratory settings. Similar to many others, our institution’s return to campus included a Hyflex modality (i.e., students rotating through in-person and remote learning for individual lessons) to allow for social distancing within classroom spaces. Following these guidelines, our environmental engineering laboratory space could only accommodate one-third of the registered students in each of the Spring 2021 lab sections. To overcome this, I created a weekly rotational schedule of in-person, virtual, and field/home activities, which allowed me to still give each student a full three-hour lab session for each exercise. This rotational schedule left me with smaller groups of students for the in-person labs and increased my ability to assess individual student progress toward specific learning objectives. Students indicated that this implementation allowed them to work more independently on experiments, improved skill development and retention, and ultimately created a more personal learning environment. In addition to student feedback, I will also evaluate how the rotational system impacted student content mastery based on assignment grades. Finally, I will present lessons learned and suggestions for continuing this model in a post-COVID world. As we return to our “new normal,” we should deliberately and critically evaluate whether our pandemic-induced innovations created an enhanced learning environment when compared to traditional course delivery.

Kennicutt, A. R. (2021, November), From Social Distancing to Enhanced Learning in the Laboratory Paper presented at 2021 Fall ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Meeting, Virtually Hosted by the section.

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