Alhamdulillah, on 21 June 2020, I presented sharing on conducting collaborative assignments /projects and peer instructions for SKAB2012 and SKAB 3012 Civil Engineering Laboratory I and II.  It was presented in SKAShine sharing session series #3 which co-presented with Dr. Zuhaili (on Active learning) and Dr. Ma (on Tips on Supervision) and Dr. Razin as our moderator. Thanks to AC Research and Academic Staff, Prof Dr. Mohamamad Ismail, SKAShine Talk team, and the School of Civil Engineering for this opportunity. This talk has been attended by 45 lecturers from various schools and faculty of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

In this talk, two important points had been addressed;
i. the importance of demonstration and application of learning and teaching activities in the laboratory that should be taken into approach as a student-centered approach.
ii. to highlight the transition of face to face laboratory to the online mode of laboratory activities and how to enhance the L&T during this limited approach.

When talking about laboratory learning, Merrill (2006) that once described a model to enhance and engage students in L&T can be divided into 4 different levels, namely:  (1) Delivery of information only, (2) Delivery of information accompanied by demonstration, (3) Delivery of information accompanied by demonstration and application and (4) Task-centred with demonstration and application. The 4-level approach is related to the CE Laboratory which indicates testing demonstration and application of a test for different fields in Civil Engineering. Just want to recall again, the CE laboratory  1 consists of 4 different laboratories to be completed; i. Geotechnics, ii. Structure, iii. Concrete and iv. Hydraulic & Hydrology.  CE laboratory II consists of a similar laboratory and with the addition of i. Transportation and ii. Environment laboratory testing.

And yes, face to face learning and teaching (L&T) activities offer vast opportunity to engage, to easily see one body language and for us, lecturer – to deliver more effectively. I myself have the opportunity to arrange laboratory visits with my Soil Mechanics class (and in there was the first time they take a class photo for the first time), and in their feedback, the visits help them so much during the next online classes. They easily could recall again how we do the soil compaction test and see the apparatus of soil classification.

Therefore, one could see that the conventional laboratory is at its own par for providing more enhancement and engagement of students in L&T. So how could we do at least come to a similar par for the online laboratory? To answer this, I would recall again things that the father of Engineering Mechanics, Stephen P. Timoshenko addressed in his biography books, ‘As I Remember’. This book is the first book I read in the early day of my tutor/lecturer in UTM recommended by my seniors Dr. Airel Yasreen. Timonshenko literarily had mentioned that,

“Exposing students to hands-on will lead to a broader understanding, therefore it is important for the lecturer to become a facilitator rather than a lecturer in the lab”.

Similarly Assoc.Prof. Dr Zol Bahri Razali in his paper of  “Valuable Experience in Engineering Laboratory enhance understanding of engineering concepts” mentioned that,

“The development of experience either intentionally or unintentionally, will happen when the students are performing tasks in the laboratory.”

Two keywords mentioned by both scholars are the thing that as a coordinator I hold to, in order to provide good online L&T for our laboratory courses, 1) facilitate (assistive) and 2) experience (aiming for students to interact with the provided data).

In order to solve low interactions and isolation among the students (and also lecturers), I highlighting that the main approach to ensure online laboratory to be succeed is via facilitating both students and lecturers (provide assistive). Interactions medium is being enhance.

As prior discussion during JKA meetings, for Civil Engineering Laboratory, we started the laboratory online session during the additional lecture weeks and allocate two weeks solid for laboratory session and submission period. Online laboratory is carried out via asynchronous task bases where lecturers prepared the briefing video and multiple sets of data ahead. In details:

  1. General briefing of new norm on laboratory goes online was conducted to brief students and lecturers before starts the laboratory. Alhamdulillah via this briefing, lots of confusions is cleared and in the same time, I have an opportunity to boost their motivation towards the laboratory sessions (as the laboratory is conducted end the end of the lecture weeks)
  2. All the L&T material is centralized via one-stop centre i.e. using e-learning Moodle. Videos, data, and softcopy of laboratory modules are provided in e-learning for easy access by both lecturers and students.
  3. Series of WhatsApp group for each section also created as additional platform for easy question and answers session. At early session of laboratory each day, a QR code for attendance is shared via the WhatsApp.
  4. Students (via e-learning system) are required to watch briefing video(s) prepared earlier by lecturers, interact with data provided (within their group) and prepared the laboratory report.
  5. Additionally, a series of online laboratory briefing also provided (when needed).

At the end of laboratory week, students submit their reports via e-learning with flat submission deadline. Lecturer grading the reports either online inside the e-learning system or download it and do the marking either digital or conventional way.

Flowline of Civil Engineering Laboratory 1 in School of Civil Engineering, UTM

Phase of work for Laboratory Coordinator

For conclusions, it is indeed truth that sustained investments in hands-on experiences help inspire students to further their education and prepare them for high-technology careers by fostering skills sought by potential employers. However, although with constraints condition, alhamdulillah, during our online laboratory implementation, I could see that students do interact directly with the provided data and this helps students to enrich the scientific concepts and finally able to enhance students’ interest, motivation, and problem-solving abilities.

A first-hand learning experience by performing various experiments on their own – but they don’t experienced it; I hope a series of substitute laboratory hands-on later can be arranged for the respective students.

Finally, some notes also have been addressed  for further improvement;

  • To increase laboratory ab staff involvement in preparing laboratory video, according to standard (with guidance from lecturers)
  • To initiate bank of laboratory data
  • To create Youtube channel/Website for laboratory
  • To suggest a virtual laboratory with supplementary kit set of sample from school to students (if needed to be conducted online again)

Thank you.