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Remote control of experiments: a joint course development project of student and teacher of Applied Physics

The motivation behind the new course

The new "Remote Control of Experiments" course aims to familiarise students with systems that communicate remotely with measurement equipment. This allows them to centrally control local analyses at different locations, which is essential for modern engineers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for this course became apparent when remote experiments became necessary. In response, several systems were introduced in the Twente Student Laboratories, allowing students to conduct experiments from home.

Jitse Boonstra, a 1st year masterstudent Applied Physics involved in developing the course, stressed the importance of understanding this technology for both industrial applications and research. He mentioned the advantages of working with these tools, such as handling large amounts of data, dealing with instability in control techniques and working with devices that are far apart. 4TU.CEE co-funded this innovation.

Student and teacher experiences in developing the course

Setting up the course together was a valuable experience for both Jitse and Jeroen Verschuur, teacher within the bachelor Technische Natuurkunde. Jitse was surprised when Jeroen asked him to help, as he was still a bachelor student at that time. He gladly accepted the challenge. 

Jitse Boonstra - student MSc Applied Physics

What I liked most about working with Jeroen were the in-depth discussions we had and the freedom I was given to explore what was possible within the course.

The basic plan of the course needed further development, with visits to research groups and discussions with engineers providing valuable insights. Jeroen appreciated Jitse's complementary knowledge and approach and found the discussions on topics and course components particularly valuable. 

Jeroen Verschuur - docent BSc Applied Physics

As a teacher, I see my role in teaching as working with students, considering students as junior engineers and taking their work seriously, while guiding them where necessary.

Students' experiences with the new course

Students who participated in the first round of the course had different experiences, as became clear during several interviews that were taken during and after the course. At first, they found the expanded content and new elements overwhelming. In the beginning, they still felt like "guinea pigs" when the course was modified based on their feedback. Despite these challenges, they appreciated the practical experience and skills they learnt. They worked well together by leveraging each other's strengths and giving valuable suggestions to improve the course, which also made them co-designers of the course. The modular design of the course allowed for flexible adaptation, which helped in solving problems with complex laboratory computer software.

Advice for developing courses with students

Jeroen and Jitse both stressed the importance of treating students as fellow engineers rather than just learners. This shift in perspective can help students develop into peers who can contribute to new ideas. They also stressed the importance of in-depth discussions and the benefits of different perspectives when conveying teaching material. Jeroen also indicated that this process is not only educational for students, but also for teachers. It gives teachers insight into how students can learn in different ways, which remains valuable for future collaborations between teachers and students.

It is also essential to give students space to indicate what they are uncomfortable with. Although the course needs further refinement, Jeroen and Jitse found their collaboration invaluable. Their experience is an example of how teachers and students can work together to develop meaningful and effective educational experiences.