Abstract

As a consequence of globalization and advances in digital tools, synchronous or asynchronous distance courses are becoming an integral part of universities’ educational offers. The design of an online course introduces more challenges compared to a traditional on campus course with face to face lectures. This is true especially for engineering subjects where problem or project-based courses may be preferred to stimulate critical thinking and engage the learners with real-life problems. However, realizing this with distance learning implies that a similar study pace should be kept by the learners involved. This may not be easy, since individual pace is often a motivation for choosing a distance course. Student engagement in group projects, collaborations, and the proper design of examination tasks are only some of the challenges in designing a distance course for an engineering program.

A series of web-based courses on measurement techniques, control, and diagnostics were developed and delivered to groups of learners. Each course comprised short modules covering key points of the subject and aimed at getting learners to understand both the fundamental concepts that they do not typically learn or understand in the respective base courses and to build on that knowledge to reach a more advanced cognitive level.

The experience obtained in the courses on what strategies worked better or worse for the learners is presented in this paper. A comparison between the courses provides an interesting outlook on how the learners reacted to slightly different requirements and incentives in each course. The results from the evaluation of the courses are also used as a base for discussion.

The background and availability of the learners is closely linked to how a course should be designed to optimally fit the learning group, without compromising on the achievement of the learning outcomes. This series of courses is a good example of continuous professional development courses in the field of control, diagnostics, and instrumentation (CDI), and brings with it a number of challenges and opportunities for the development of online courses.

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