Case Studies

The Telepresence Laboratory for a New Campus Life Since the Covid-19 Crisis

The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic significantly altered the university experience for students, necessitating a shift towards a new way of learning. Traditional in-person lectures have been replaced by online sessions through teleconferencing tools. However, when it comes to practical subjects like Mechanical Engineering, the conventional methods of online or offline simulations and remote laboratories fall short in providing an authentic hands-on experience with laboratory equipment and collaborative learning opportunities.

To address this challenge, a telepresence laboratory was developed and implemented for the Mechanical Engineering Experimentation and Laboratory II class, specifically designed for third-year undergraduate mechanical engineering students (course code: 2103360). This innovative approach aims to fulfill seven key learning outcomes, with a primary focus on evaluating the accuracy, repeatability, and resolution of an IGUS Drylin linear motion system.

The telepresence laboratory sessions are conducted ten times within a semester, with each session accommodating two groups of 4–5 students who participate in Lab A simultaneously. Based on the analysis of students’ experiences and achievements, it is evident that the telepresence laboratory effectively delivers its educational objectives. A significant majority of students, more than 86%, expressed agreement that the telepresence lab enhanced their abilities in problem definition, experimental design, hands-on experimentation, data analysis, drawing conclusions, and reporting skills. Additionally, over 77% of students confirmed that they gained valuable insights into equipment usage through this laboratory. Impressively, 89% of students reported high satisfaction levels with the telepresence lab, and an overwhelming 91% would recommend it to their peers. The telepresence laboratory is still in operation and has been utilized for the past three years. Telepresence technology has been integrated into numerous classes and projects, each serving distinct purposes. This telepresence laboratory was featured in an article titled ‘The Telepresence Laboratory for a New Campus Life Since the Covid-19 Crisis’ in IJEE Vol. 38, No. 5B, Special Issue: Engineering Education Everywhere – Good Practices for Emergency Situations and Remote Regions.

With COVID now considered endemic, the country finds itself fully immersed in the digital economy. We have successfully overcome the technological hurdles. Students now employ their personal tablets or phones to access and oversee the plant, regardless of their location, be it in front of the plant or at home. The laboratory, equipped with integrated digital technology, not only reduces long-term operating costs but is also poised to adopt the latest available technology for students’ benefit. The next-generation control board and firmware are currently in development to facilitate compatibility with diverse hardware and wireless communication systems. Both web and mobile interfaces will be accommodated.

In conclusion, the telepresence laboratory has proven to be a viable alternative to traditional face-to-face lab sessions. It not only fosters collaborative learning, allowing students to engage in discussions and teamwork to accomplish tasks, but also integrates real-time web interfaces into the design of investigations. This approach permits students to access and control equipment using their mobile devices, aligning seamlessly with the current educational landscape characterized by the “new normal” brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University

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