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Engineering Labs Going Online as Part of Remote Controlled Learning Program

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student Boe Jensen and Montana State University Assistant Professor Brock LaMeres

An NSF grant will help MSU Assistant Professor Brock LaMeres, right, determine whether students learn as effectively from Web-based lab courses as from hands-on courses.

Credit: MSU News Service

Montana State University (MSU) computer engineering students will soon be able to control laboratory equipment through their home computers. A two-year, $148,000 National Science Foundation grant will help the MSU College of Engineering determine if students learn through Web-based laboratory courses as effectively as they do from hands-on courses. The research could result in improved distance learning for students at other Montana colleges or high schools by providing remote access to advanced scientific equipment.

Engineering courses, which generally have a significant laboratory component, have had difficulty providing online options because so much of the subject requires hands-on work with machines and other instruments. Efforts to overcome this limitation have involved distributing lab kits or making computer simulations available.

Now, MSU is one of the first universities in the country to enable students to control real equipment remotely through their computers, says MSU professor Brock LaMeres. He will use the grant money to build four to eight logic analyzers, which will enable students to see and measure data moving between a computer microprocessor and memory chips. During the next two years, LaMeres will modify an existing microprocessor course and assess how well his students learn using logic analyzers in online and in-person courses.

From Montana State University
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