Promoting Engaged and Active Learning in Electrical Eng. thru Collaborative Online Lab Experiences

Gleb Tcheslavski
Lamar University

We are implementing various learning strategies to provide engaging online engineering labs in Electrical Engineering (EE). The strategies include integration of open-ended design experiences into lab work with pre-lab simulations and videos, accomplishing virtual teamwork, and creating online learning communities to overcome the isolation.

The expected outcomes of this project include increased students’ self-reliance, critical thinking skills and knowledge retention as well as improved student motivation and attitudes towards electrical engineering.

The following show research questions:
1. Do the collaborative online labs improve students’ learning in the chosen EE courses?
2. Did the open-ended design problems help students develop a deeper understanding; build self-confidence and improve critical thinking skills?
3. What are the perceived effects of the collaborative online labs learning experience?
4. Is there a difference in students’ interest, self-efficacy, motivation and attitudes toward Electrical Engineering between those who experienced the collaborative online labs and those who experienced traditional online labs?

We will measure the effectiveness of the project through surveys, interview, and student learning performance data.

From the above empirical research, the expected project outcomes are:
1. Cognitive Behavior: With the new online lab strategies, the students will be better able to retain knowledge in selected EE courses.
2. Affective Behavior: After applying the new online lab strategies, the students will be more confident, motivated and interested in electrical engineering and less likely to depart to non-electrical engineering majors.
3. Knowledge Gain: Understanding on how students’ hands-on experiences improve with online lab strategies adopted. Current active learning strategies for online labs will be validated. New framework for running successful online lab courses will be derived from the empirical research in this project. This will allow other researchers and educators to use these principles to improve the effectiveness of the lab experiences in disciplines other than “Electrical Engineering”.
4. Experiment Bank: Development of 40-60 online lab experiments with open-ended design experiences covering various areas in EE (module 1). 20-30 online lab experiments targeting high-school students (module 2) and a lab-in-a-box tutorial. These lab experiments will also include active learning strategies such as pre-lab video demonstrations and pre-lab simulations, strategies for effective teamwork and e-learning community. Good practices on how to effectively use these strategies in online courses will also be suggested. The modular format of the labs will allow these enhanced online lab strategies to be easily adapted to other institutions and other STEM disciplines.

The research results will have an immediate impact in the training of undergraduate students taking online lab courses in the U.S. and around the world. The modular format of the labs will allow these enhanced online labs and strategies to be easily adapted to other institutions and disciplines.

The proposed project is expected to enrich learning experiences for engineering major students and K-12 students and teachers in the STEM field through hands-on lab activities. All collaborative learning strategies used in this project will be disseminated through workshops and a free online portal.


Selahattin Sayil, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX; Julia Yoo, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX