Work in Progress: Leveraging Inquiry-based Simulated Laboratory Exercises in a Virtual Classroom Environment

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


We report on the implementation and impact of virtual laboratory modules in a specialized engineering course titled 'Nondestructive Evaluation of Flaws' offered virtually in Fall 2020. The proposed curriculum changes aim to address two key challenges associated with teaching this course: (i) students' difficulty in learning the theoretical principles behind disparate test methods taught in one semester and (ii) students' widely different backgrounds and preparations. The virtual laboratory experiences include hands-on simulation of various test scenarios using a commercial software. This is accomplished by student groups meeting in break-out rooms. In addition, video demonstrations are used to show operational principles of each testing method. In the former case, the students are asked to first predict the outcome of a test scenario based on their understanding of the theory, run simulations and then discuss the simulation results in light of their initial predictions. In the latter case, the videos are shown once before teaching each test to introduce the method and inspire students' curiosity. The video is shown a second time after teaching the test for students to gauge their learning (since the first screening) and develop (partial) test protocols. The assessment includes pre- and post-surveys as well as quiz problems on the test fundamentals. The student performance when answering targeted quiz questions shows a significant increase in their learning of fundamental physical principles. The results of the post-survey are overwhelmingly positive alluding to a positive course experience by an overwhelming majority of students, independent of their background and initial interest in the course (as determined in a pre-survey). We conclude that although a virtual laboratory cannot replace an actual hands-on laboratory experience, it seems to improve student learning and class experience even in a virtual class environment. More careful assessments in future offerings of the class are necessary to better quantify the impact of the virtual laboratory implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Work in Progress: Leveraging Inquiry-based Simulated Laboratory Exercises in a Virtual Classroom Environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this