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The Virtual Laboratory: Technology Enhancement For Engineering Education

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.1050.1 - 6.1050.13

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Marilyn Smith

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2602

The Virtual Laboratory: Technology Enhancement for Engineering Education

Marilyn Smith, Narayanan Komerath School of Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 30332-0150


This paper continues to report on research that seeks to define the proper role of technology to enhance learning in engineering education. The first application addressed was that of augmenting traditional classroom lectures so that classroom and homework time becomes a laboratory of learning and reinforcement through iteration and application. This approach directly develops the engineering attributes set forth in ABET 2000 Criterion 3. Several examples of the technology-based virtual laboratory are provided. Positive and negative factors from teacher and student viewpoints are discussed with an emphasis on how students with different learning styles behave with respect to the new methodology introduced in these classes. Experience accumulated from several iterations of aerospace courses at all levels from freshman to graduate, and subjects ranging from abstract theory to practical applications, are discussed. The diversity of student reactions indicates the critical need to understand learner attributes in detail, and the use of technology in this effort is shown. While the classes discussed herein are Aerospace Engineering classes, the techniques are applicable across any engineering discipline.

I. Introduction

Engineering educators contemplating the criteria of ABET2000 quickly realize that in the long term these criteria cannot be met unless major changes are instituted in the way that the curriculum is structured, delivered, and learned. The leading edge of each discipline moves forward at ever-increasing speed, innovations cut across traditional discipline boundaries, the amount of material which must be included in the curriculum constantly increases, and the time available to teach keeps decreasing. Meanwhile, there is pressure to use technology in improving education, and the general public expects engineering schools to stay at the leading edge in their usage of technology in the classroom. This is the environment that motivated the work reported in this paper.

Table 1 lists some of the criteria in ABET 2000. The accreditation process also requires educators to develop appropriate assessment methods to determine if progress is being made towards appropriate goals. It is apparent that such methods must be a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Their implementation is daunting in terms of the time and effort required. In order to achieve the ambitious goals of ABET 2000, it is imperative that each student learns to the best of their ability throughout their undergraduate experience. This is extremely difficult to achieve in traditional classroom settings when one recognizes that each individual student has a combination of the traits associated with different types of learners.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Smith, M. (2001, June), The Virtual Laboratory: Technology Enhancement For Engineering Education Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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