The COVID-19 pandemic forced educational institutions everywhere to pivot to remote learning. During the rapid transition to online instruction, STEM courses with physical laboratories or hands-on exercises embedded in the instruction suffered the most. Limited access to labs prevented students from efficient use of physical devices to complete their work. Beyond the pandemic, general attitude changes have been observed where some students are showing limited on-campus presence due to continuing off-campus commitments.
We describe the initial steps for hands-on engaged student learning (ESL) off-campus focused on creating learning environments and materials designed to support such remote ESL. The approach utilizes Internet of Things (IoT) kits as remote learning tools that are lent to students to provide hands-on learning experiences at students’ own chosen environment.
The IoT involves infrastructure in which a wide variety of physical devices interact with one another and share information. When designing, working with or combining these devices, STEM students must consider many aspects of their disciplines, such as sensors, signals, device integration and interfaces, system functions, control, testing and measurement, cloud infrastructure services for the support and management of IoT devices, security and communication, among other topics.
Guiding Questions and Outcomes
In the first-year of implementation, anecdotal results obtained from written feedback from the first students the project was piloted with suggest that IoT serves as an effective tool for hands-on ESL in remote environments:
1) How did the use of IoT (kit) help with hands-on active problem- and project-based learning (PBL) through the use of IoT kits?
“… helped … by having to figure out the process of IoT without prior knowledge. Having the project … be remotely accessible is going to be a requirement soon as technology is advancing everyday therefore learning to access a project via the Internet will be a necessary skill.”
“IoT kits are helpful in gaining hands on experience with the BeagleBone controller as well as the integrated sensors in the IoT kit. The flexibility of the sensors on the kit allows the student to interface with different board mounted sensors, over different means of connectivity … in order to test an idea as well as sensor integration to the board. …”
2) How did the use of IoT (kit) help with off-campus engaged student learning as a hands-on project tool?
“… helped by being able to learn problem solving skills since there was no prior knowledge of IoT before …”
“Off campus use of the kits is necessary in my opinion due to the time investment it takes to learn and implement IoT in a project. Having the kits at home allows time for trial/error when testing different methods of connectivity protocols such as MQTT or HTTP to get to the cloud. …”
This work is a result of collaborations at two Hispanic Serving Institutions. The expected results of this work include guidelines, protocols and courseware useable at other institutions for hands-on remote ESL, impacting knowledge and skills of undergraduate students, including underrepresented students.
Lifford McLauchlan, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX; David Hicks, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX; Beate Zimmer, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX;