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.