What do students gain from laboratory experiences?
Zol Bahri, Razali, Dr.
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The University of Western Australia invested significant funding to develop and test new technologies for student learning using the internet, including a substantial investment in remote access laboratories. Over 15 years of operation, some significant limiting factors have become apparent. The technology has not been widely adopted, either in our own faculty or elsewhere. Nearly all engineering laboratory classes still follow traditional patterns, as do lecture and tutorial classes. Therefore it is worth asking why the adoption of such an apparently attractive technology has been so much slower than expected. To answer this question we started a project to understand more about the practical learning outcomes from traditional laboratory classes. When we applied tools from psychologists to measure practical intelligence in an electronics laboratory class, we not only found we could measure a significant gain in hands-on practical intelligence, but also predict students’ ability to diagnose equipment faults. For the first time, therefore, we can demonstrate that there are real advantages inherent in hands-on laboratory classes, and we can measure this advantage. It is possible that measurements of practical intelligence may reveal new and more powerful ways for students to acquire practical knowledge and skills from remote laboratories as well.