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Remote Access Active Experiential Learning with Industrial Instruments

One of the grand challenges recently thrust on engineering education is providing active, experiential learning that can flex with significant global events such as pandemics and meet the needs of individual students. The COVID pandemic is a prominent driving force for change, but beyond that, meeting the needs of students with physical, economic, or temporal barriers, such as with professional learning, is critical for our education system. This is especially true for university laboratories, where hands-on nature is often more challenging to provide remote learning services to engineering students. In electrical engineering education, the immediate response to the pandemic-induced closure of university laboratories was to cancel laboratory learning, assemble hobbyist-type experimental kits, and ship the kits to students to learn fundamentals. This approach provided a flexible experimental arrangement for students but was limited due to a lack of student exposure to tools and processes used in the industry. These learnings are critical to students who want to excel in internships or their first regular employment. Here, we describe the development of a remote active, experiential training program based on industrial tools for students to learn at a distance with industrial-type laboratory equipment. A pedagogical electronic amplifier was set up in the laboratory. Instead of students attaching probe clips to various parts of the amplifier to test, electronic laboratory switches, controlled remotely by students, allowed them to probe salient parts of the amplifier and even substitute different electronic components. Based on newly available commercial software and hardware, the system will enable students access to a laboratory session, interact with other students via online chat, and conduct experiments. In this innovative practice full paper, we will review the method approach, experimental laboratory configurations, and the learning outcomes of this remote learning technique. This method is an innovative approach to remote learning. It is potentially extensible beyond electrical and electronic engineering to other engineering domains, such as photonics, mechatronics, civil, and perhaps chemical, where electronically controlled laboratory equipment is included in the student’s experiential learning.

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