Lab Courses

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Kizmet, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  2. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Active Member

    Hopefully concepts such as this catch on, and help people find solutions to the lab requirements that some programs require. When I was working on transferring schools to finish a bachelors, the two main schools I initially was looking towards, were both infeasible due to their requiring a chemistry lab component. Unfortunately, I also see their point, and do believe that many labs are simply not compatible with online or distance learning.
  3. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Some B&M schools don't have the required labs.
    My son's girlfriend has to do the labs in another location that the university outsource to.
    There are times she has to stay in a motel/hotel for weeks to be able to complete the labs.
    Indeed its a challenge but on the other hand, the labs are state of the art with the latest and greatest.

    I assume schools that don't have their own labs can arrange something similar as long as the student understands that even
    On line degree programs may have some residency requirements for the labs and clinical's.
  4. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    I've seen physical labs by mail for distance courses for a number of years now. I've seen electronics courses having those sorts of labs, and I also recall Straighterline having physical lab projects one receives by mail and completes at home. I saw one school have a lab that you had to record a video of yourself doing and completing. The company mentioned in the PR piece has been at it since 1994.

    A lot of people aren't aware of these things, then you couple that with the misconception that distance education is limited in every aspect somehow by nature and it's easy to think when something like this pops up it's some kind of big new breakthrough, but many of the problems I see written about concerning distance education have been solved a number of years ago.
  5. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Some disciplines can provide labs by mail. CIE and World College did it for their Electronics courses and degrees.
    But it all depends on the discipline.
    In some disciplines labs by mail are not practical. These programs commonly include both online coursework and in-person lab components, essentially making them hybrid programs.
  6. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Here is one DL LAbs provider.

    Carolina Distance Learning® lab kits are designed specifically for college-level distance education. They provide the same rigor, relevance, and results that traditional labs provide, giving your students a successful science experience

    Build Your Kit
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    Anatomy and

    Build Your Kit
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    Build Your Kit
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    Build Your Kit
  7. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Active Member

    I still struggle to see how Electronic labs can be done via distance, and maintain quality. Even a low end set of quality bench equipment (2-4 channel power supply, DMM, function generator, and scope) will go for over $2k. Simulators are horrible alternatives. Even for fabrication techniques, optical magnifiers & microscopes will cost thousands and require continuous feedback by an instructor for a student to reach a point where they can solder to a class 2 or 3 standard.
  8. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Again it depends. I personally remember spending many hours in the B&M lab, soldering, using scopes, wave, signal, frequency generators, analyzers, and industrial equipment. Antennas and telecommunications equipment.
    Well in our computer lab I still remember hard drives the size of washing machines. But things progressed fast.

    DL providers find innovative ways to deliver the labs. Some will have you travel to the campus for summer sessions others will provide labs to students home.
    I think its a combination of components and small motors, and that they mail to the students, DMM, power supply, and other equipment.
    Some schools lend the equipment. I had a digital lab mailed to me and I had to return it. This was in the early 8O's.

    And yes the use of simulators such as Multisim that helps researchers and designers reduce printed circuit board (PCB) prototype iterations and save development costs.
    Multisim integrates industry-standard SPICE simulation with an interactive schematic environment to instantly visualize and analyze electronic circuit behavior.
    Its intuitive interface helps educators reinforce circuit theory and improve retention of theory throughout the engineering curriculum. I love this tool.

    Also, you have an area of programming Embedded Electronics. Arduino and Raspberry Pi are the obvious ones that can be studied at home by DL.
    Personally I still use "raw" PICs for most of my home projects, but only because I know them inside out and have the tools.
    Most of the tools can be picked up cheap or free these days to allow for bedroom tinkering.
    In the embedded world employers love a track record, realistically it's as or even more important than a degree in many industries.

    ABET for many decades refused to accredit DL bachelor's degree engineering programs, I think the main concern was labs. But with the time they started accrediting a program that had lab component on campus for summer sessions.
    Later they accredited 100% on line Electronics Engineering program at ASU. Someone proved and convinced ABET that labs can be done by DL even for Electronics Engineering degrees.
  9. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    I emphatically agree.

    There's a big distinction between professional-style labs for majors and general-ed 'rocks for jocks' labs. Classes for majors teach proper technique and the use of professional laboratory equipment.

    Microbiology will requires very expensive laboratory-grade microscopes, incubators, steam autoclaves and all kinds of stuff like that. Cultures, reagents and lots of dangerous stuff you can't just pour down a sink (or inhale). Students will need close supervision from a laboratory instructor to ensure that proper technique is used and everything done safely. Safe and effective laboratory technique isn't a something that can be easily dismissed with a wave of the hand and chants of "No significant difference!" Employers and graduate schools will assume that applicants are familiar with this stuff.

    Actually, I think that things like many art studio classes will fall into the same category, as will clinical classes in health related subjects.

    I can much more easily imagine lecture components of classes being done online, but labs (particularly serious labs for those contemplating graduate school or professional careers) will continue to be hands-on. Hence hybid classes.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
    Vonnegut likes this.
  10. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Active Member

    The hybrid model, of having labs all wrapped up in a short period of time such as summers, does work to some extent, for some classes. I've had hybrid classes that only meet a few times a semester for lab activities. That being said, for a great deal of electrical and electronic theory, I'm simply not a fan of the model. My weekly lab assignments in courses such as Circuit Analysis, Digital, Analog, Microprocessors, Fabrication, Communication, etc. all build upon themselves and correspond with what is being learned via lectures in their respective weeks. To divorce the lab activities from their corresponding lectures, would be exceptionally challenging to do while maintaining the quality of student learning IMHO. That being said, there are many schools with classes such as those, who do not have extensive lab activities, use bread boards, have full bench equipment, etc. Unfortunately, I see a significant quality difference between many programs. While some programs believe that using things like breadboards and cabinets filled with components are outdated, expensive, and not shiny like the purpose built educational trainers, I have personally yet to find something that can equal the ability to instill proper workmanship, trouble shooting, and real world problem simulation. It's taken a tremendous amount of time, and many weekends, holidays, and 14-16 hour days; but we've built our labs to the point that some private sector employers are having their employees retake the same classes with us, that they completed at rival colleges in our region.

    A significant number of schools have switched some to nearly all of their labs to be conducted through simulation software. It is far easier to manage for the faculty and department chair, while also bringing about significant cost savings (real electronic labs are not cheap). When I attended a community college for my associates in electrical engineering technology, it was all lecture, book work, and simulation software. While I won't say that I didn't learn anything, it was no where near as valuable for electrical and electronic knowledge as the formal union apprenticeship that I went through. I love simulation software and it's absolutely irreplaceable for professional use, but IMHO there is a wealth of knowledge that is missed when it is overly relied upon. While anecdotal, I have personally encountered far too many EEs who completely grasp electrical theory from a math and physics perspective, which simulation software can instill, but completely fail to have any real troubleshooting ability in the field or on the floor with real world equipment. Yes, the sharpest students will bridge that gap successfully without further assistance. I do incorporate PSpice and Multism (other faculty) throughout our programs, but I am a firm believer that they are not an adequate substitution for lab time.

    When I first came on board my current departments, 6800s were still being lectured about to help teach assembly language. We've transitioned to Arduino and just started having the students earn Arduino Certifications. Also have an order in for a lab of their new engineering robotics kits. It's certainly made the whole field more "exciting" to our students, while at the same time more relevant (2 year level). We still do some prototyping though and have been fortunate to recruit a fairly well known Standford EE who spent a career reverse engineering processors and embedded systems. We are lucky to be in a great retirement destination and have been fortunate in recruiting retired engineers, as we certainly don't offer San Jose CTO/CEO salary nor do the people we seek out, really need the money.

    My programs are not accredited by ABET, I'm fairly unfamiliar with what they go through during their review processes. From what I've been told by administrators who have though, is that as long as the program is regionally accredited and meets basic quality standards, the biggest challenge is merely maintaining faculty credential restrictions. As they are significantly more stringent than most regional accreditors, and in my personal opinion, for a not entirely valid rationale.

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