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In physical sciences and engineering research, the study of virtual labs (VL) has generally focused on case studies about their implementation into classrooms or engineering design process and elements. However, few (if any) studies have assessed the viability of using conventional course evaluation instruments (originally designed for traditional in-person classroom environments), to evaluate virtual lab classes. This article presents a preliminary set of results from a study that examines and compares engineering undergraduate students’ evaluations of a capstone mechanical and aerospace engineering laboratory course taught in two different environments: in-person and remotely (virtual/online environment). The instrument used in both cases was the conventional course evaluation instrument that was quantitative and designed using a Likert scale. The aim of this study is to understand how this instrument captures or does not capture the students’ perceptions of their learning of course content in virtual and in-person learning environments. The second aim of this study is to explore students’ perceptions of the effectiveness and acceptance of virtual learning tools and environments applied in engineering laboratory classes. A total of 226 undergraduate students participated in this convergent mixed method study within a mechanical and aerospace engineering department at a research-1 institute in the northeastern region of the United States. Our initial analyses of the students’ course evaluations indicate that there were no statistically significant differences in the perceived teaching effectiveness of the course. However, statistically significant differences were found between the course final grades between students who participated in the in-person lab juxtapose to those who engaged in the virtual laboratory environment. In addition, qualitative results suggest that students’ perceptions of the value of in-person and virtual labs vary depending on prior engineering experiences. These results suggest that there is room for improvement in conventional course evaluation instruments of senior capstone engineering education laboratories that take place either in-person or virtually.
Cook-Chennault, K., & Farooq, A. (2022, August), Virtualizing Hands-On Mechanical Engineering Laboratories - A Paradox or Oxymoron Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/42121
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