Virtual Lab Sessions for First year Undergraduate Math Courses
National University of Singapore
In this paper, I will share my experience of designing the virtual lab
sessions for one of mathematics courses that I taught in National
University of Singapore (NUS).
Computer lab sessions have been part of the first year Calculus and
Linear Algebra courses in NUS for many years. Students taking these
courses are required to go to a physical computer lab at a scheduled
timeslot to complete a worksheet using computer aided softwares such as
Maple, Matlab or Derive. The worksheets will then be manually marked by
lab assistants. The main aim of the lab sessions is to enhance
students' understanding of mathematical concepts through visualisation
and experimentation. Since the enrolment for the first year math
courses are usually very large, a lot of administrative work is
therefore required to coordinate the booking of labs, assigning of lab
assistants and marking of lab quizzes.
Recently, I have designed virtual lab sessions to replace some of these
regular lab sessions. The new virtual lab allows students to access the
lab online anywhere anytime. Each lab comprises two components: lab
activities and a lab quiz. In the lab activities, students will use Web
tools or applets to explore and visualise concepts taught in lectures.
Breeze presentations are also developed to demonstrate how to use the
various Web tools. Discussion forums are also set up for students to
discuss among themselves as well as to communicate with both the
lecturer and lab assistant. The online lab quizzes are designed using
the university course management system. Students are given a deadline
to complete each quiz. These quizzes are marked automatically by the
computer programme. Consequently, a lot of administrative works has
been saved. Survey has been conducted to collect students' feedback on
the new format of lab sessions.