Bringing Remote Labs and Mobile Learning Together (#mlearning)
Bringing Remote Labs and Mobile Learning together
D. May, C. Terkowsky, T. Haertel and C. Pleul, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany
Published on International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM)
Within (remote) laboratories in Engineering Education students have the chance to do own experiments and by that gain own experiences in their learning processes. Apart from technical questions, one of the most intriguing aspects in this context is how students can document their learning process and show to others (teachers and/or other students) what they have achieved. Another aspect concerns the question of learner’s mobility during the learning process. If the laboratory can be accessed remotely, why do we constrain learners in their level of liberty by forcing them to sit in front of a fixed computer to use a location independent environment for experimentation? Therefore, rendering this environment available for mobile devices is the logical consequence. Furthermore, integrating mobile devices into the course’s technical environment means to take a whole new approach to the teaching and learning process itself. It is especially a question of embedding mobile devices into the users’ workflow (or better “learn flow”) rather than a simple question of accessibility. The following article features an example of how remote laboratories can be linked with mobile devices and e-portfolios, thus creating a unique learning environment helping learners to document their personal learning processes and to exchange them with others while at the same time being flexible in means of time and place. This combination of topics has been realized within one subtask of the project “ELLI –Excellent Teaching and Learning in Engineering Education” at TU Dortmund University.
PeTEX – Platform for eLearning and Telemetric Experimentation
Important research on the use of remote laboratories in teaching engineering aspects was done by the universities of Dortmund (Germany), Palermo (Italy), and Stockholm (Sweden) within the project PeTEX – Platform for elearning and Tele-operative Experimentation.
Within this project comprehensive research on using remote laboratories in teaching was carried out. The aims are that students get into contact with real technical equipment, understand the greater context of research and gain technical competences for their future work.
The learning process in the light of research processes
All aspects have been brought together by developing a clear and interactive user interface providing real time feedback of the running experiment.
Additionally the entire tele-operated experimental environment was made available with the learning content management system Moodle. Within Moodle, we conducted the alignment of four, for us elementary, areas for this kind of socio-technical system. This socio-technical alignment for tele-operated laboratory learning consists of the adjustment of the technical, didactical, media and social level. By integrating the tensile test environment into Moodle, this socio-technical alignment was put into a usable as well as flexible environment.
E-PORTFOLIOS and Their Use in Experiential Learning
In addition to the open learning concept which is supported by the use of laboratory equipment in general, the use of remote laboratories within the PeTEX project was designed for the usage by a very heterogeneous learner group composed of students and professionals. This means that the software for the learning process’ documentation as well must be designed very open in order to prevent system inherent barriers for different learner types. In this context it should be mentioned that the Pe-TEX system intends to merge higher education and the workplace as well as to create an international learning community not being limited to one institute.
These 3 aspects—documenting the learning process , building a learners’ community and connecting the students’ work with their future professional work—are requirements the software has to address and accomplish. Software which seems to be adequate and which is frequently discussed in similar contexts is the e-portfolio….
Scenarios of Using Mobile Devices in Combination with E-PORTFOLIOS
Among others, one of the advantages of mobile learning is that previously unplanned time periods can be utilized for learning and that learning processes can be initiated virtually everywhere. In addition to that using mobile devices can support the creativity process because new ideas mainly come spontaneously and the fact of carrying a mobile device throughout the day makes it easily possible to put down a note with an idea and to work on it later or to work on it immediately as we will explain in the scenarios….
In order to innovate the teaching and learning in engineering education we will design the “Mobile Lab Portfolio”. This environment integrates the use of remote labs, e-portfolios and mobile devices. See in the following the central advantages of the presented concept:
- As the equipment of laboratories is either very expensive to purchase and maintain at every university or not always accessible for students the use of remote or virtual laboratories is a good alternative to face this dilemma.
- Using the equipment virtually in simulations or remotely from wherever they can help the students to do experiments just as a pre-check on personal hypothesis or even when they are not physically in the laboratory.
- Learning processes that are achieved by the usage of the laboratories can be documented in e-portfolios.
- These portfolios are a good opportunity in order to document the experiments for personal use or for evaluation by an instructor. By looking at his students’ portfolios the instructor can either see what kind of experiments the students have done and what they learned from it.
- If the portfolios are not kept hidden from other students but are open for other users to look at them and comment on the achievements, there is the opportunity for a community to evolve working together on the experiments. The e-portfolio software should be made accessible for mobile devices, too.
- This paves the way to mobile learning, which means that the learning process is not bound to any location. From virtually everywhere and at every time the user can work on their portfolios and communicate with each other.
This is an impressive project that innovates the experiential learning process , builds a learners’ community and connects the students’ work with their future professional work. It pushes the boundary of leveraging mobile devices in education. Check out the full paper here.