Assessment challenge: “How do we take the practical component of this course home?”

Students in Damien Miles’s electrical course usually participate in labs where they use tools, materials, parts, and pieces that they have access to on campus. These labs normally get more intricate as the semester advances.  In moving to an online delivery,  Damien worried about how to assess the students as they engaged in the more practical and more complex aspects of the training. How could he transform the labs so students could get their hands on the material and he could evaluate their work?

Solution: Give students take-home equipment kits, and let them discover

Damien and Terry Fedchuk (assistant instructor and shop technician) put together a tote of parts, pieces and a few different tools for each student to take home. This would be the material they would work with throughout the semester. The capstone assignment required them to build a functioning circuit and, under face-to-face circumstances, Damien would have provided specific instructions that students would have followed. Now, because students did not necessarily all have the same materials at home, he decided to give them more freedom to create: “I don’t care how you do it, just make it work following correct codes and safety practices”. This lead to a more authentic assignment because students had to build on their knowledge and use a level creativity akin to what  is required in the field. Students had to use soft-skills before hard-skills; pre-plan and map it out; estimate and evaluate. Students then needed to submit 5-8 photos of their circuit along with their choice of materials, the prices, the number of hours they worked, and labour costs. He also included a self-assessment element by having the students determine where they could have been quicker, used less material, and been more efficient. Overall, Damien felt this activity, admittedly more flexible than usual, allowed students agency and opportunities for reflection and creativity.  And like many instructors who have had to adapt to online learning quickly and creatively, Damien found these opportunities were embraced by students; they rose to the challenge they were facing.