Ohio University

Conducting Labs from the Comforts of Home: Professor Brandon Saunders safely brings hands-on education to OHIO students

Conducting Labs from the Comforts of Home: Professor Brandon Saunders safely brings hands-on education to OHIO students

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many schools have had to move to distance learning in order to keep teachers and students alike healthy and safe, the decision significantly decreasing the amount of face-to-face interactions, and thus the amount of hands on learning, students can experience this school year. Ohio University is no different, professors and staff left to figure out creative and stable ways to continue supporting and educating OU bobcats from afar until we can be together in the future.

The J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communications Technologies, teaching classes for both Information and Telecommunication Systems and Games and Animations, is particularly challenged by distance learning due to a focus on using on-campus labs and equipment to give students hands on experience in their field of study. One such class is ITS 3110: Technical Foundations of Communications, a course that teaches students about electronics, optics, and physics through a variety of labs that have students interact with circuit components directly. Usually this course would require students to go to the Schoonover basement labs once a week where students would build the stuff they learned via breadboards and the like, but as with many things this year, the class structure had to be changed.

Brandon Saunders, professor at the McClure School and current instructor for this semester’s run of ITS 3110, decided that if students couldn’t come to his lab, he would bring the lab to his students.

Notoriously lab-centric classes like Internet Engineering have been made portable with the help of GNS3, a network software emulator that allows students to simulate complex networks of routers, hosts, firewalls, and more that originally would have been taught physically to them on a smaller scale in the Schoonover basement labs. The same cannot be said for ITS 3110. Unable to find a completely virtual substitute that would give students that same level of educational gain as the in-person version of ITS 3110, Professor Saunders decided to gather what lab equipment he could and create lab kits to send to his students.

Each lab kit comes with an assortment of items, all of which center around a breadboard as their base. An Arduino MKR WIFI 1010 board, power supply, micro servo, resistors, buttons, a variety of LEDS, and other equipment were packed into small, ECT themed boxes and then sent out to students either via mail or via contactless pick up methods. With the use of Teams and pre-recorded video lectures, ITS 3110 preps students for hands on labs in the comforts of home. Resources like TinkerCAD, Fritizing, Phet Simulations, and draw.io allow students to simulate and document their lab work to get an idea of what can be done and also what things they should avoid. Blowing up an LED or power supply can be illustrated virtually so that students can avoid creating that environment on their real breadboard.

While virtual resources provide a glimpse into what can happen in reality, it can’t compete with the hands-on experience that ITS 3110 has offered from the start. Thanks to Professor Saunders’ creative thinking and dedication, the challenges of maintaining educational standards and the quality of the student experience continue to be met even in the face of adversity.

To learn more about what the McClure school is doing to keep students engaged and provide them the best experience we can, check out our article on Eric Williams and his Pedagogy Class and the potential of the McClure School!

The McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies strives to offer the best academic programs in the IT (Information Technology), the game development and the Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) industries. Our programs and certificates cover numerous aspects of the rapidly changing industries of information networking, information security, data privacy, game development, digital animation and the academic side of esports.