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Teaching and Managing Remote Lab-based 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

Adaptation of Laboratory-based Courses During a Pandemic: Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies Division

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Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Mohamed A. S. Zaghloul University of Pittsburgh

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Mohamed A. S. Zaghloul was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1987. He received his B.E. degree in Electronics and Electrical Communications Engineering in 2009, and his M.Sc. degree in Engineering Physics in 2012, both from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University. In 2019, he received a Ph.D. from the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of the University of Pittsburgh, in developing optical fiber sensors for monitoring harsh environments. Since 2019, he has been appointed as an Assistant Professor in the same department of the same school. Zaghloul is a recipient of multiple research and teaching awards, and since 2016 he has been appointed to the Postgraduate Research Program at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) administered through Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).

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Amr Hassan University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Amr Hassan (also know as Amr Mahmoud) received his B.Sc. degree in Electronics and Electrical Communications Engineering and the M.Sc degree in Engineering Physics from Cairo University, Egypt, in 2011 and
2015, respectively. He earned his PhD in Computer Engineering from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh, USA. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor with the same department, since August 2019. Dr. Hassan's primary focus is on education development and innovation. His Research interests include, but not limited to: Machine Learning, especially Deep Learning, for Image Processing and Video Prediction, Neuromorphic Computing Systems and its applications.

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Ahmed Dallal University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Dallal is an assistant professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering, Unversity of Pittsburgh, since August 2017. Dr. Dallal primary focus is on education development and innovation. His research interests include biomedical signal processing, biomedical image analysis, and computer vision, as well as machine learning, networked control systems, and human-machine learning.

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As all schools worldwide reverted to remote learning early this year, most STEM programs have suffered greatly. These programs flourish and are made distinct by the ability to conduct laboratory classes, and the absence of the latter deprives the STEM programs of their main distinction from other literary programs. It was no surprise that there were a number of lawsuits against schools, especially Engineering schools for not lowering their tuition fees while not offering in-person classes. From Engineering students’ perspective, those in a regular non-distant learning-based program, hands-on experience is expected mostly through laboratory classes. They usually enjoy laboratory classes and look forward to implementing what they had learned in book courses. But most importantly, since project/lab-based learning is one of the most effective and better resonating methods of learning, and one that distinguishes between Engineering programs; engineering students immediately feel that they are getting their money’s worth when engaging in a laboratory environment. Different engineering schools struggled to convince their students with remote laboratory classes as an alternative to in-person laboratory classes, as ABET has not relaxed any accreditation requirements, especially the criterion related to facilities. it was mandated on instructors to carry out their laboratories remotely, with minimal compromise to the hands-on experience. Thus, it became the instructors’ obligation to setup remote labs at every student’s home on their rosters. In this paper, two instructors’ experience of setting up four remote hardware and software labs will be presented, discussing in detail the advantages and caveats of the process. It certainly seemed like a fool’s errand to attempt to send laboratory kits to classes that have over 40 students enrolled, but with perseverance from the instructors, administrators, and sales support teams at vendors, this hurdle was overcome. The instructors further faced problems related to remote lab handling such as managing teams working remotely, the difficulty of remote-debugging software and hardware experiments, lab kits faults, and providing support for software installation. Other remote lecturing problems like internet issues during conducting lab-meetings, and students being at different time zones were also intrinsic to the remote learning process. This article will include a survey-based study that was conducted to gauge the level of satisfaction of students, along with the depth to which the lab materials resonated with students in comparison to in-person labs. Additionally, the classroom dynamics of both in-person laboratories and remote laboratories will be compared. An assessment will be made to reveal how remote teaching may compromise the quality of the laboratory experience and how well the learnings will resonate with the students. The article will also discuss the viability of remote laboratory classes as alternatives to in-person laboratories. A recommendation will be made by the authors to conclude whether students should still opt for lab-based classes during the pandemic or delay their plans.

Zaghloul, M. A. S., & Hassan, A., & Dallal, A. (2021, July), Teaching and Managing Remote Lab-based Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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