During the COVID-19 pandemic, instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) across U of T Engineering have had to get creative in finding new, engaging and equitable ways to conduct labs — a traditionally hands-on and collaborative in-person learning experience — without on-campus equipment, software or space.
Farmer is using a combination of “kitchen labs,” simulated lab platforms and data analysis reports to create a new lab experience. And in the case of this recent assignment: students used a camera or smartphone in place of a spectrometer.
“It was important that the labs were accessible and that students could use what they have on hand at home instead of procuring specialty items and tools,” says Farmer.
Another important goal of Farmer’s is to ensure her students still get to build relationships with their peers. For the kitchen labs, she puts students into teams to mimic the interactions of a lab setting.
“Normally, students will be looking over and going, ‘Oh, it didn’t work for you either? Ok, so is it the chemistry that’s not working?’ and they talk it out to solve it,” she says. “I want to provide that same conversation from their own homes.”
In AER 210: Vector Calculus and Fluid Mechanics, second-year Engineering Science students in Professor Alis Ekmekci’s (UTIAS) course would typically learn fundamental fluid mechanics concepts by participating in a flow visualization lab.