Forming an effective partnership with a dedicated LabAssistant: a software shell for engineering laboratory exercises

2015-12-04T14:27:11Z (GMT) by Steve Rothberg Fiona Lamb
This paper describes the structure and use of LabAssistant, a software shell purposely written to run alongside engineering laboratory exercises and provide support to students undertaking the exercises. The structure of LabAssistant enables tutors to deliver their own laboratory sessions within the shell using only basic spreadsheet skills. LabAssistant is intended to be used in conjunction with in-depth, analytical laboratory exercises and its features include text entry, numerical input and checking (including verification of calculated values and provision of appropriate feedback), graph sketching, data plotting and report generation. Feedback from students confirms that LabAssistant has enhanced the learning experience, encouraging active engagement, building confidence and assisting progression through the exercise, even using the data and information input during the session to generate the majority of their laboratory write-up automatically. From the tutor's perspective, the provision of immediate and continual help to the students is a significant enhancement to the quality of the learning experience. LabAssistant complements the tutor who is now able to deal effectively with deeper conceptual difficulties and larger student numbers. The facility to verify all calculated values and the creation of a report in a standard electronic format are significant aids to the marking of student submissions.