Remote practical-focused tutorials

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

Jon Rosewell

As befits its title, Technologies in practice (TM129) takes a practical focus to learning, with up to 50% of study time having a practical aspect. The tutorial program should support this and in the past some tutors have found innovative ways of bringing practical demonstrations or exercises into their face-to-face sessions, for example demonstrating a robot vacuum cleaner or setting up an ad-hoc network of students’ laptops.

Producing online tutorials with an equivalent practical focus is a challenge. The creation of the OpenSTEM lab provides an opportunity to meet this challenge. Part of the HEFCE and OU funding for the OpenSTEM lab has provided five large ‘Baxter’ robots which will be accessible remotely as well as two which will be used at residential school. The lab also provides racked equipment bays for smaller remote access experiments, such as those being developed for the electronics curriculum. For a large population module such as TM129, this infrastructure provides an opportunity to roll-out practical-focused synchronous tutorial events to all students, provided the activities are well designed and scripted so that they can be delivered by a number of tutors.

In this presentation I will review the possible use-cases for remote practical activities, discuss some of the technological and pedagogical challenges, and review progress towards delivering engaging practical activities at a distance.

 

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