HELP IN MAKING THE TRANSITION TO WEB-BASED TEACHING
With much of the country locked down to combat the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, most colleges and universities are likewise shuttered. With surprising speed, engineering instructors have pivoted to online instruction, including remote labs. It’s a safe bet that some of them have never taught a class online or set up a virtual lab. Here is a repository of links to online papers, videos, primers, and tools to help make the transition to web-based teaching a bit less stressful.
- Here is a link to an online teaching resources repository that ASEE launched on Facebook last month: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1222276261295578/
- For several weeks now, three organizations—the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, the Global Engineering Deans Council, and the Indo Universal Collaboration for Engineering Education—have been hosting regular webinars geared toward online leasrning. Recent subjects include Working With Project Teams Online, presented by William Oakes, a professor of engineering education and director of EPICS at Purdue University, and Online Classrooms—Need of the Hour, presented by Keith Fernandes, an assistant professor at India’s St. Joseph Engineering College. An archive of these and other previous webinars can be viewed (here), or you can subscribe to IFEES’s YouTube channel (here).
- In February 2017, Tim Drysdale, a senior lecturer in engineering at Britain’s Open University (a pioneering remote-learning institution) filmed this video, just after the school opened a new $3.5 million OpenEngineering Lab, in which he shows how “an internet of laboratory things” works in practice. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/v-k8-WXgNEM
- This MIT in-house video is a guide to preparing to shift from the physical classroom to the virtual: http://teachremote.mit.edu
- Here is a Chronicle of Higher Education article explaining how Clemson University and some other colleges were preparing for the transition to remote teaching. It also provides links to resources: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Preparing-for-Emergency-Online/248230/#.XmuldmsCWcY.email
- This is an overview of remote laboratories in engineering education from the Kongsberg Institute for Engineering, University College of Southeast Norway: http://www.laccei.org/LACCEI2016-SanJose/RefereedPapers/RP50.pdf
- This 2009 paper from IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies explores the many facets of remote laboratories in engineering education: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=5370795
- This link offers 14, fully hands-on workshops exploring explore heat transfer concepts that Virginia Tech is using to teach 350 mechanical engineering students in online classrooms: http://www.me.vt.edu/heat-transfer-mobile-lab-3/
- This hour-long video is a primer for teaching an online lecture course in thermodynamics, presented by Krishna Pakala, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Boise State University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVQYpQhjSfk&feature=youtu.be
- This summer, the Association of College and University Educators is offering an online course called Promoting Active Online Learning that’s designed specifically for graduate students, who often have teaching responsibilities. If you’re interested, you can (Register here).
- This recommendation for a home-build spectrophotometer comes from Margot Vigeant, a professor of chemical engineering at Bucknell University: https://apmonitor.com/pdc/index.php/Main/PurchaseLabKit
- Michael Goryll, an associate professor of electrical, computer, and energy engineering at Arizona State University, offers this link to a video he made to help students access remote labs: https://youtu.be/CsraATSBbYI
- This hour-long video on implementing virtual labs features Bucknell’s Margot Vigeant; Denise Felsenthal, director of engineering technical services, and Shaun Usman, assistant director of information technology, Arizona State; and AnnMarine Thomas, professor of mechanical engineering, University of St. Thomas. It was created for KEEN, an online network of engineering faculty: https://youtu.be/vn7p7DpGaZA
As to my small end-of-semester drama, the system provided no evidence that the student completed the exercise. Since it was a low-stakes assignment, the student still passed the course. But the incident chipped away at our mutual trust and forced us to waste a lot of time that should have been spent on teaching and learning.
- Creating a Virtual Lab
Here is a short primer (with links) by Greses Perez-Johnk, a Ph.D. student in science education at Stanford University:
What do you need to create a simple virtual lab experience? Through the research conducted by the Science in the City Research Team at Stanford University, we created virtual laboratories and lessons for learning that bring students’ communities into their classrooms and show learners the science and engineering in their neighborhoods. Although this research work has been implemented primarily in K-12 settings, there are a lot of lessons we can take from these experiences into other engineering environments.
First, you will need at least a cell phone camera, or even better, a 360-camera to record your laboratory (See Calorimeter Lab example). In order to scaffold the content to meet the needs of different learners, you can add audio, close captions, as well as summaries of results after each lab trial. To stream the recorded labs, you can use platforms such as YouTube or Zoom. If you wish to create a lesson to actively engage learners beyond the laboratory work, such as collaborative experiences and formative assessments, then the instructional platform Nearpod may be the next step for you. With Nearpod, you can connect students with your lesson and each other through online activities that are self-paced or controlled by the facilitator. At the same time, you can incorporate your virtual two-dimensional or 360-virtual labs into the lesson for a more realistic experience. To engage students in virtual reality journeys in any of the platforms, learners will only need a cellphone or computer. If your students have access to VR glasses, you could offer a
more immersive experience. We have used cardboards goggles as they offer an affordable alternative to expensive commercial headsets. The cardboard ones can be found for as low as $5.99 or DIY through Google open source versions for everyone to make. For easy view on VR goggles, and a more authentic virtual experience, the content recorded can be powered through the platform Omnivirt.
Virtual engineering labs have the potential to reach students with online activities that are more realistic and active. It expands our notions of what counts as the laboratory. For examples of how these lessons have been used in different contexts follow the SC at Stanford resources page. The current pandemic has sped up the experiment of going virtual within days. However, engineering educators do not have to sacrifice effective and active teaching. Instead, we can draw on tools like virtual environments to imagine new ways where learning could take place.
- This link will direct you to a Cornell University web page that offers best-practice suggestions to students (and faculty) for remote working: http://chec.engineering.cornell.edu/best-practices-for-student-remote-work/
- This link (https://facultyguide.weebly.com) will take you to a work-in-progress website offering a guide to “rapidly transitioning campus courses online” put together by Christine J. Shanks, an associate professor of design at Tompkins Cortland Community College and a lecturer in digital multimedia design at Penn State University.
- Zoom-era Etiquette
Here is a primer (with links) on establishing norms for videoconferencing by Zachary del Rosario, who is completing a Ph.D. in statistically rigorous aircraft design at Stanford, and will soon begin a visiting professor position at Olin College:
We’ve spent our lives learning how to communicate face-to-face, but most of us have spent far less time videoconferencing. I suspect many of us thought of videoconferencing as inferior to physical presence—to be avoided. For the foreseeable future, that doesn't seem a viable option. This is why we need to talk about videoconferencing norms: To adjust to and thrive in the new normal.
Further, this online-only situation is not all bad! Now seminar speakers that were geographically unavailable are as easy to reach as your neighbor. I attended a recent seminar from the U.S. with participants in Germany, and I have completed a faculty interview with an online teaching demo. Videoconferencing—done well—opens new possibilities.
Based on my experience as a remote employee and from teaching online, here are some norms for excellent videoconferencing:
1. Mute yourself when not talking: Unfortunately, the technology and office layout for videoconferencing are not yet optimized. You may have kids screaming in the background, or construction blaring outside your apartment. All these problems have a simple solution: Mute yourself when not talking. Learn the keyboard shortcut for toggling mute (e.g. in Zoom, Alt + A or Cmd + Shift + A) and practice using it.
2. Practice empathy: You have a lifetime of experience talking in person, but you are probably as novice at videoconferencing as anyone else. Also keep in mind that students and colleagues may not have access to the same resources (e.g. broadband, silence, technology). Be patient with each other: We're all learning!
3. Overcommunicate: Since we're all new to videoconferencing, we're dealing with more cognitive load than usual. One solution to this challenge is to be as exact as possible in communicating. Be more detailed in your requests and use multiple modes when giving your students instructions (verbal, written in assignments, on your LMS, etc.).
For more details, see "Videoconferencing 101: Competencies and Norms." I also recommend this Crash Course in Remote Management, which has recommendations for leadership/management roles.
- KEEN, a Wisconsin nonprofit that oversees a network of engineering educators with the goal of making engineering education more entrepreneurial, has been scheduling a series of live discussions on virtual learning. One recent conversation was about how best to engage with students online, led by educators from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Olin College. This link will allow you to join a subnet where you can view the transcripts and resources from past discussions, suggest topics or volunteer to be a facilitator: Virtual/Online Learning Subnet.