PNW exploring alternatives to traditional lab work for engineering, tech students

Purdue University Northwest has been exploring ways to offer its engineering and technology students alternatives to traditional lab coursework, now that a global pandemic has forced changes in the way students undertake their course studies.

A task force of 10 faculty members have been working to develop “Remote Knowledge Labs” to provide hands-on learning experiences that can partially replace traditional lab instruction, PNW officials announced. More than 600 engineering and technology students at PNW will benefit from the set of courses and labs targeted by this initiative.

Alternative modes of instruction considered with Remote Knowledge Labs include:

  • Development of virtual laboratories, which can proceed along at least two trajectories:
    • Augmenting existing equipment to permit web-based remote control and monitoring of experiments (“remote experiments”)
    • Developing cyber-physical laboratories that combine both computer-based simulation and control environments with physical systems that are remotely manipulated
  • New and/or modified experiments that can safely be conducted by students at home, using parts and materials they either already have or that they can easily acquire or purchase
  • Establishment and distribution of lab kits that students can purchase or rent

Course content that will be considered for Remote Knowledge Labs include applied heat transfer, analog electronics, electronic measurement techniques, elementary engineering design, fluid mechanics, microprocessor system design and interfacing, strength of materials and materials testing, process control instrumentation, and ECET power courses.

“Courses will be partially or wholly converted to an interactive off-campus experience, with modules developed during this initiative benefiting faculty and students across both engineering and technology disciplines,” officials said.

“From conversations with our students, we know that concerns regarding their lab experience under the conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic can be discouraging. We are therefore working hard to offer our students an experience in the all-important experiential learning components of our programs that equals or even exceeds the standards they are used to,” said Dietmar Rempfer, director of PNW’s School of Engineering.

“The College of Technology and School of Engineering pride themselves for providing hands-on experience with industry standard equipment for PNW students. We leverage our faculty members’ innovative ideas, coupled with resources from both colleges, to continue providing such experience to our students,” said Mohammad Zahraee, associate dean of PNW’s College of Technology.

Students at Purdue Northwest have opportunities this fall to take classes in face-to-face, hybrid, virtual and 100% online formats. Faculty are preparing to offer engaging learning experiences in all of the course formats.

Engineering and technology students who are interested in signing up for fall 2020 classes should contact their advisor or visit to apply for admission to the university. To learn more about PNW’s preparations for fall semester, visit  COVID-19 Student Guide.

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