Impact of corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic on engineering laboratory lessons : a case study of selected higher education institutions in Zambia.

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Bweupe, Chola Noble
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The University of Zambia
COVID-19 pandemic prevented physical converging of lecturers and students. Lessons that do not include laboratory sessions went on virtually, but there is need to know through this research what alternative was implemented for engineering laboratory lessons at Higher Education Institutions (HEI). Did students and lecturers just forego their engineering laboratory sessions during the pandemics lockdown and hope to have them after the pandemic eased off? The research aimed at investigating the possible use of virtual tools and platforms in the delivery of engineering laboratory lessons as an alternative to the physical laboratory lessons. Thereafter, investigate the effectiveness of delivering engineering laboratory lessons by virtual tools and platforms, investigate if the delivery of engineering laboratory lessons by virtual tools and platforms compromises on the quality of education and to investigate the best method engineering laboratory lessons can be undertaken when physical engagement between lecturers and student is limited. The mixed method approach was used that allowed collecting reliable data, the data was analysed and presented in numbers. Open-ended communication was also used to achieve clarity. It was vital to first assess what prevailed regarding the delivery of engineering laboratory lessons during the pandemic and hence, the following findings: 23.41% of students viewed virtual tools and platforms as an alternative to the traditional face to face engineering laboratory lessons as effective and 76.59% viewed them as not being effective. If virtual engineering laboratory lessons compromise on the quality of education 70.68% of students said they compromise while 29.32% responded that they do not compromise on the quality of education. Interview findings from lecturers indicated that a majority of laboratory lessons did not take place during the pandemic due to university infrastructure not able to accommodate the demand for virtual learning, cost of internet, slow internet speed and lack of financial capacity by universities to provide the needed virtual tools and platforms. For courses that can allow virtual laboratory sessions, the study recommends implementation of virtual tools and platforms as alternative to physical laboratory lessons. This can be successfully achieved provided that the virtual tools are procured with assistance from relevant stakeholders, the tools meet the required specifications and when constraints such as infrastructure, cost of internet and slow internet speed are addressed. For courses that cannot do without physical interaction with laboratory apparatus, the blended approach is recommended with laboratory lessons being held physically.
Educational technology--Study and teaching. , Web-based instruction--Study and teaching. , Social distancing (Public health) and education--Case studies. , COVID-19 pandemic--Education.