Engaging and Effective Laboratory Classes in Geotechnical Engineering
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Most geotechnical engineering educators would agree that experience in the laboratory by geotechnical engineering students is an essential part of their university education. Traditional geotechnical engineering practical classes can, in the main, be described as unexciting, uninspiring and tedious. A key part of the problem is the loss of valuable contact hours in the laboratory waiting to observe modest response from the soil. Furthermore, often large group sizes, inadequate demonstrators' teaching skills and the absence of engaging study materials increase student disengagement and diminish learning. Student dissatisfaction with traditional laboratory classes has led many universities to question the educational efficacy of laboratory classes, particularly in a time of mass-education, and several universities have cancelled them altogether. This paper presents a framework and a series of resources, which have been developed specifically to increase student engagement and improve learning in geotechnical engineering laboratory classes. The framework consists of 3 components: (1) a pre-laboratory interactive learning module; (2) a streamlined laboratory component; and (3) a post-laboratory interactive learning module. At the core of each experiment are clearly defined learning objectives, which inform the structure of each module, the nature of the laboratory component and the assessment tasks. The first and third modules were developed using the Articulate e-learning authoring software, which provides a media-rich platform for developing engaging learning objects. In addition, a series of computer programs, collectively known as CATIGE (Computer Aided Teaching in Geotechnical Engineering), was developed and integrated into the post-laboratory modules and subsequent laboratory reports, to assist with the teaching of elementary geotechnical engineering principles to undergraduate students. The net result of this approach is a more efficient and sustainable laboratory experience, which is more engaging and, hence, achieves improved learning outcomes. The paper also discusses the development of the resources and reports the overwhelmingly positive student responses from student evaluations. The developed resources are available online to geo-educators and students at no cost to facilitate their dissemination and wider use. In order to encourage the geotechnical engineering community - students, academics and practitioners - to adopt the framework, all of the resources, including all the relevant Articulate ILMs, PowerPoint, video files and CATIGE software are freely available from: http://proxy.civeng.adelaide.edu.au/OLT/.
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