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Remote Versus In-hand Hardware Laboratory in Digital Circuits Courses

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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

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Rania Hussein University of Washington

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Dr. Rania Hussein is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at the University of Washington (UW). Throughout her career, she has developed and taught courses at all levels in electrical, computer engineering, and computer science at different institutions. In response to the emergency transition to online teaching due to COVID-19, she founded the remote hardware lab at UW ECE to promote a cost-efficient and equitable access to hardware from a distance. She is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE and a member of the International Association of Online Engineering IAOE. Her research interests focus on Internet of Things, embedded systems, and engineering education.

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Denise Wilson University of Washington

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Denise Wilson is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests in engineering education focus on the role of self-efficacy, belonging, and other non-cognitive aspects of the student experience on engagement, success, and persistence and on effective methods for teaching global issues such as those pertaining to sustainability.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated many engineering students at home and complicated access to instrumentation and hardware resources necessary to support laboratory courses. One viable alternative to bringing the hardware to the students (and the correspondingly high overhead associated with shipping laboratory kits all over the world) is to enable remote access to that hardware. A remote lab allows students to access real hardware physically located in a single location from anywhere in the world. The advancement in cloud computing allows students to take advantage of a full-fledged remote experience without compromising what they could have accomplished if they were physically present in the lab. This study investigates how remote access to real hardware impacts students compared to traditional, in-person learning where the student has hands-on access to the same hardware. Comparisons between the two modes of learning were made for a junior level course in digital circuit design using field programmable gate array (FPGA) hardware offered in autumn 2020 and a traditional offering of the same course in winter 2020. The assessment of students work described in this study is grounded in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Student learning was assessed with respect to a single laboratory assignment that was the first in a series of laboratory assignments in the digital design course. The assignment deliverables of a random sample of 41 students from each offering was analyzed within the first five levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Results show that students performed better in terms of overall scores, understand skills, and analyze skills when presented with remote access to laboratory hardware than when having that hardware in hand. These results complement other studies that highlighted the benefits of remote laboratories. Accordingly, the increased efficiency and cost savings of the remote lab approach can offer stable and reliable instruction well beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

Hussein, R., & Wilson, D. (2021, July), Remote Versus In-hand Hardware Laboratory in Digital Circuits Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37662

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