This thesis contributes to the general body of knowledge of research into
engineering education. The main scope of the thesis is on enhancing laboratory
education. There are three main types of laboratory: virtual, hands-on and
remote. The hands-on lab is the oldest and most commonly used medium for
experiential education in undergraduate degrees of science and engineering. The
literature review of laboratory education has shown that hands-on labs suffer
from many disadvantages, which can be overcome by utilizing hybrid laboratory
structures that incorporate virtual and/or remote modes.
The investigation into enhanced laboratory education is achieved via
implementing new technical and pedagogical models of conducting laboratories.
The technical model incorporates three access modes (virtual, hands-on and
remote) to the laboratory experience in one software package called the TriLab.
The TriLab concept has been applied to the Process Control Lab at the Chemical
Engineering Department of Loughborough University and has been implemented
using LabVIEW. The Joomla web content management system was used to
develop an online portal for disseminating the remote component of the TriLab
resulting in the first remote lab portal of Loughborough University and one of the
few available in the UK.
A pedagogical model of laboratory education based on Kolb’s experiential
learning theory and by the utilization of the TriLab concept is proposed. The
model is built on a hypothesis, which states that the poor learning outcomes of
hands-on laboratory sessions can be associated with poor activation of the
stages of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. It has been proposed that access to a
virtual lab in a preparatory session will play a role in activating the stages of
Kolb’s cycle. To verify this, educational experimentation procedures were
designed and applied to two groups, control and experimental. Measurements
via pre- and post-lab tests, marks for the laboratory report and the final exam of
the module have been performed. The statistical analysis of the measurements
has supported the stated hypothesis and solution proposal. The proposed
pedagogical model is one of the few that provide a way of conducting laboratory
education based on constructivist educational theories. (Continues...).
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.