Skip to content

Toggle service links
  1. eSTEeM
  2. Category
  3. Theme
  4. Technologies for STEM learning
Subscribe to RSS - Technologies for STEM learning

Technologies for STEM learning

Comparative study of distance teaching of Electronics using simulation software versus OpenEngineering Laboratory

Project leader(s): 
Sotiria Psoma
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

Laboratories are critical to enable engineering students to develop knowledge, skills, deep approach of experimentation and to build successful cross-curricular capabilities and capacities. When designing any electronics course, the laboratory practices are one of the pillars on which the learning is established. In distance education, remote laboratories, virtual laboratories and simulators are the main tools to deliver laboratory practices and particularly remote experiments have become a challenge in electronics courses. In 2016, Loro et al. claimed that in order to bring students closer to industrial world, simulators are a first and economic approach but are still far from providing a deep approach for experimentation and understanding the performance of real components together with their measurement equipment limitations. Web-based learning environments have transformed the roles of instructors, students and course materials so much that a new relationship has emerged between these three elements of learning; and, well-prepared pedagogical approaches must be explored and employed (Fu et al., 2009).

This study is designed to compare distance teaching students’ gain of deeper understanding and life-long learning of the necessary theories of the subject, resulting from learning electronics concepts by using computer simulation (MultiSim) versus OpenEngineering Laboratory.  In recent times, educational institutes use increasingly computer simulations for engineering laboratories with certain advantages at least financially, however with significant educational weaknesses such as the difficulty to assess the level of the in-depth knowledge of basic concepts that is developed by the students. Despite this controversial global trend, OU made a significant investment in OpenEngineering Laboratory for practical lab-based teaching at a distance, covering engineering, electronics, control and signal processing. During the last three years, the OpenEngineering Laboratory has been used for the teaching of the T212 Module and this year for the T312 module. A comparative study is required for reviewing and improving the teaching laboratory material in order to lead to improved student achievements and to consolidate a holistic approach especially for distance teaching engineering courses combining different pedagogical laboratory tools. It will be investigated whether the addition of a relative activity such as Analogue Electronics Laboratory during the Engineering Residential School could strengthen and complement the OpenEngineering Laboratory.  In addition, the involvement and support of the SRSC Manchester will be investigated. At the moment, there are very limited analytics available for the OpenEngineering Lab for statistical analysis and assessment of the student usage of the remote experiments (T212 and T312), thus possible ways to address this issue will be carried out.

In this work, a literature review will be performed on the different applied pedagogical methods, especially for the laboratory elements of engineering courses, and their effects on students’ development of knowledge, confidence, satisfaction, competence and safety; controlling risks from accidental hazards in engineering design and later their professional efficiency.

Sotiria Psoma poster (PDF)

An investigation into the breadth of learning outcomes and skills developed in OpenSTEM Labs experiments

Project leader(s): 
Helen Lockett
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The OpenSTEM Labs (OSL) deliver authentic practical experiences to our distance learning students in STEM subjects using real time instrumentation, data and equipment for practical enquiries over the internet. The Open University has made a substantial investment in the OSL and built up a large repository of experiments. The aim of this project is to investigate the breadth of learning outcomes developed across all the OSL experiments and develop tools to help design OSL experiments in the future, with a view to Module teams being better informed to make the right choices when considering using the OSL. The project will improve our understanding of which types of experiments, student interactions and assessments best develop which learning outcomes and skills. 

The project will start with a literature review to identify existing classifications of remote experiments and their learning outcomes. The findings from literature will be used to define a taxonomy of remote/ onscreen laboratory activities, learning outcomes and assessments.

All the Faculty’s OpenSTEM Labs experiments will then be mapped using the defined taxonomy to create a searchable database.  It is anticipated that the results will allow us to identify a set of common experiment types, learning outcomes and assessment methods, and will be used to develop a design tool that will assist with designing new activities in the future. This could be in the form of simple postcards describing activity types, learning outcomes and skills that could be used by module teams early in the module learning design process. 

The project will benefit staff by making it easier to design effective experiments that contribute to student success and progression. It will also help module teams to find information about existing OSL experiments for possible reuse. The project will benefit students by enhancing the use of the OpenSTEM Labs in our teaching.

Helen Lockett, James Smith and Kevin Gowans poster (PDF)

An investigation into the way Jupyter Notebooks enhance learning and teaching on TM351

Project leader(s): 
Sharon Dawes and Chris Thomson
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

TM351 (Data Management and Analysis) has used Jupyter (2019) notebooks for practical work from its inception in 2016. This web based tool enables students to embed program code and associated discussion in a notebook in the style of a lab book (Appendix B) so that they can explain what they were doing and why. Teaching materials include notebooks in the same style, to explain a concept and then show its practical application such that the example can be run. In this way students can return to a project at a later stage and if their notes were sufficient, they or another researcher can repeat the work and study how valid their assumptions were as well as whether their conclusions in a report were justified.

The project will investigate how students divide their time between theoretical reading on the TM351 module website and practical work using notebooks, both as a part of their learning, and then practice for their final report. It will explore to what extent their use of the notebooks reinforces their learning or extends their knowledge. It will look at  whether there is any relationship between  where they are currently studying and  what computing devices they have available when the student works at home, at work or on the go that might affect their ability to undertake practical work using notebooks as opposed to theoretical reading using other provided materials.

The research questions the project will answer are:

  • Does the use of notebooks effectively support students in their studies of the module learning outcomes?
  • Do notebooks allow the students to integrate theory and practice?
  • Do students have technological problems in using notebooks?
  • Does the use of notebooks dictate when and where students are able to study?
  • Is the use of notebooks restricted by accessibility constraints?

Dawes, S. and Thomson, C. (2019) project poster (PDF)