2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Exploring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Remote Laboratories

Presented at Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies Division (ELOS) Technical Session 3: Best of ELOS

Over the past two decades, remote labs (physically existing laboratory equipment that can be used over distance) have evolved significantly and have been integrated into undergraduate laboratory instruction, allowing flexibility of place, time, and learning. Remote labs got much more attention during the global pandemic, which allowed institutes to incorporate laboratory work in engineering courses independently from social distancing requirements and other restrictions. The earliest remote laboratories were designed to permit flexibility of equipment access. Incorporating such laboratories in engineering education, however, also allows inclusivity, democratization, and participation [1, 2]. Information technology's affordance and fairness become crucial when accessing laboratory equipment. While there is much research on how remote labs contribute to the overall learning experience, there is little or no investigation into whether and how remote labs promote inclusion and equity in conjunction with instructional laboratory experiences. In addition to that, ABET proposed modifications to the general criteria for accrediting engineering programs, which states that the curriculum should also include a professional education component consistent with the institution's mission and the program's educational objectives and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion awareness for career success [3].

In the above described context, this study discusses learners' opinions about remote labs and how such labs support equity and inclusion in the laboratory environment. More specifically, the study will highlight data on the perception of students who think remote labs serve equitably and fair to learners, irrespective of their prior background, race, ethnicity, or color. It also discusses remote labs' contributions and contrasts with ABET's proposed modifications and the implications of research findings for making remote labs inclusive, fair, and accessible to every learner.

The research questionnaire reflects the integrities of inclusion and equity and its contribution towards the principle of fairness and equal access [4]. A Mixed-method study was conducted with students in electrical engineering at a West public university in the United States to analyze their experience. Participants completed a survey and participated in a semi-structured interview. The survey questions constitute three significant focuses: Demographic, Climate, and Culture. Demographic questions focus on class statistics, and climate questions focus on fairness in remote lab environments. In contrast, culture questions are to understand the accessibility and usability of the tool and technology used. These data were analyzed to introspect remote labs and how they influence learning goals, accessibility, and fairness.

References -
[1] Lindsay & Good (2005) also observed statistically significant differences in the students’ perceptions of the objectives of the laboratory experience as a function of which access mode they had experienced.
[2] Johri, A., & Olds, B. M. (Eds.). (2014). Editors. In Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research (pp. xiii-xiv). contributors, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Madhavan and Lindsay, Use of Information Technology in Engineering Education
[3] ABET, Criteria for Accrediting Computing Programs, 2022-2023, retrieved from Section IV. Proposed Changes to the Criteria, https://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-accrediting-applied-and-natural-science-programs-2022-2023/#4 (last accessed 11/04/2022)
[4] M. Pollock, “Glossary, Terminology, Definitions, Keywords”, retrieved from EngineerInclusion.com https://engineerinclusion.com/what-vocabulary-do-i-need-to-know-related-to-diversity-equity-and-inclusion/ (last accessed 11/04/2022)

  1. Mr. Animesh Paul University of Georgia [biography]
  2. Marcos Jose Inonan Moran University of Washington [biography]
  3. Dr. Rania Hussein University of Washington [biography]
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