Moving Hands-On Mechanical Engineering Experiences Online: Course Redesigns and Student Perspectives

Jaclyn E Johnson, Nancy B Barr


Hands-on lab experiences are essential for enabling students to be successful engineers, especially those who identify as kinesthetic learners. This case study describes how a Mechanical Engineering Practice course sequence was redesigned during the COVID-19 emergency transition to remote learning and examines how students responded to these changes. The remote course included videos of Graduate Teaching Assistants conducting data acquisition phases of the practice session to replace hands-on experiments. To understand student perspectives and performance, researchers reviewed approximately 400 reflective essays from Spring 2020, and compared assignment submissions between Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. Results suggest that some students perceived the loss of hands-on activities as detrimental to their learning and it was not comparable to face-to-face counterparts. Furthermore, students felt forced to develop self-directed learning skills. However, in contrast to student comments in reflective essays, comparisons of assignment submissions suggested that students in Spring 2020 did not receive lower grades or have a reduced demonstration of conceptual knowledge obtained in the course.


remote labs; content analysis; reflection; engineering

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