Use of digital technologies in bridging the gap between face-to-face and remote engineering programs
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Curtin’s Chemical Engineering Department has been offering distance education/online courses providing alternative educational opportunities and pathways to those who cannot physically attend university for traditional classroom activities. In particular, this mode of education is a most sought-after approach by industrial personnel, wherein non-chemical engineers can appreciate the basic unit operations and enhance their level of understanding while dealing with chemical plant operations. With the objective of closing the gap between the two modes of learning, Curtin has recently embarked on incorporating online laboratory and virtual plant exercises as part of its assessments to enhance learning outcomes. A case study is presented to show the effectiveness of online programs and their standing compared to the traditional graduate programs in terms of attainment of learning outcomes as well as assessments. More specifically this study addresses the history of distance learning, course structure and four specific areas where digital tools are applied: assessment, interactive tutorials, Internet-based experimental activities and virtual reality industrial plants for remote learning. Comparisons of students’ performance in both learning formats indicate that the use of digital technologies have not only bridged the gap but also assisted in fulfilling the attainment of student learning outcomes.
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