Lab Tools

ATS is exploring the ways in which Drupal can be used to simplify and enhance student laboratory experiences. One of Drupal's main strengths is the ability to store information generated by users. This is accomplished by creating web forms which automatically store information in the Drupal database. Creating a form specifically tailored to the needs of a laboratory exercise is extremely easy using Drupal, and data storage occurs automatically.

microbiology_webform.pngCurrently we have three projects under development that can be used to collect student-generated data. The first is an updated version of Don Lehman's Hemotology Unknowns project. The original version of this project, developed using Macromedia Authorware, stored lab data in text files on a file server maintained by Don himself. The new system will store the same data in the ATS Projects Drupal database, and can easily be reviewed online, as well as downloaded into Excel. In addition, there will be a Gradebook view which allows students to review their individual scores securely, and which can be downloaded for import into Sakai. In both cases, students enter their data using computers available within Don's Medical Technology lab.

medium_sim5.pngOur other projects do not require data entry in a laboratory setting. One is a full-fledged virtual lab, which students perform entirely online. This is again a re-deployment of a previous project, originally developed for Dallas Hoover in support of a course in Food Microbiology. This project has been converted for Drupal data storage as a proof-of-concept. The original project was designed to generate a print-out of the data, which students bring with them to class for a follow-up group discussion and analysis. The paper printout system has worked well for Dallas for several years, so our proof-of-concept conversion is more important as a learning exercise for ATS staff than as an enhancement of the original.

Architect's ScaleThe final project is not technically a laboratory exercise. The sponsoring professor, Jules Bruck, originally used class time to train her landscape architecture students in the use of a specialized ruler called an architect's scale. Jules felt that the classroom experience was not meeting the needs of her students. Part of the problem was that the amount of time and instruction required by students varied greatly. Students who were slow to catch on felt too embarrassed to raise questions. An online tutorial was devised to solve these problems. Originally, the tutorial did not collect any student data. Because of this, students could not be held accountable for completing the exercise.

The new Architect's Scale Tutorial will capture student data with enough detail to identify specific areas of confusion. It is even possible that instruction on this next version will be individualized using a technique known as branching. Branching provides a way for some students to progress through a tutorial rapidly, while others are encouraged to complete remedial training or additional example exercises. Look for more information in upcoming editions of the ATS Newsletter!

We are interested in developing additional projects that take advantage of the Drupal database. If you have a project idea, please contact Becky Kinney or fill out a Project Request Form.

This page was last modified on November 10, 2010, 13:56.