Electronic lab kit similar to those used by IAT 267 students


SIAT instructors prepare for remote delivery of lab-based courses

June 17, 2020

The School of Interactive Arts & Technology’s initial transition to online delivery has been successful thanks to the efforts and adjustments of staff and students. Instructors are now in the process of planning for fall term courses and are implementing some additional modifications to practical and lab-based courses in order to provide students with the equipment and learning support that they will need.

The practical element has presented a unique challenge for instructors since students in some courses learn not only through online lectures, but also through working with physical components such as hardware, electronic circuitry, microcontroller boards, and sensors.

Students in IAT 267 Introduction to Technological Systems, for example, handle equipment in hands-on labs where they engage with concepts learned in lecture through a variety of practical exercises. “The main challenge now is to answer the question of how we keep the practical aspect of the course, and keep the course engaging while moving to online delivery,” says Helmine Serban, instructor of IAT 267, 339, 359, and 352 for the Fall 2020 semester.

This challenge will be addressed in IAT 267 by providing students with their own electronic kits which they can use to work on practical exercises in much the same way as they would in an in-person environment. Teaching assistants will provide step-by-step tutorial guidance via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra on the equipment and, in lecture, simulation software will be used to demonstrate the expected outcomes of certain circuits and allow students to simulate their circuits before building them.

Maintaining open communication channels between students, instructors, and teaching assistants is also a priority for Helmine and other SIAT instructors. “While implementing changes to this course, I considered what strategies I could use to maintain the practical aspect of the course, the group discussions that we had in lectures/labs, and the open communication between students and teaching staff,” she says.

Many courses will utilize the communication tools available through Canvas (discussion boards, Blackboard Collaborate) to facilitate discussion and collaboration among peers and with instructors. Students in IAT 267 will also be able to attend online office hours and bring their circuits and code to show the course instructor and teaching assistants and to troubleshoot problems.

Above all else, Helmine would like students in her fall courses to continue to see themselves as active members of the learning community despite the distance between some students. “All of us—teaching staff and students alike—should make the most of the available technology and consider this an opportunity to engage and collaborate in our goal of learning together.”

Like IAT 267, other SIAT courses will be modified as necessary to provide students with the same learning outcomes and experience as in-person instruction. Students can expect to receive more information about individual courses closer to the first day of class.