Information Preferences of Engineering Educators Faced with Remote Laboratory Adoption Decisions

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Remote engineering instructional laboratories have become increasingly extant since their 1996 proof-of-concept inception at Oregon State University. Numerous institutional initiatives have spurred the development and deployment of increasingly sophisticated remote labs to support engineering education. The literature has likewise burgeoned from feasibility alone to include a wide range of pertinent topics relating to matters technical, organization, and pedagogical. These labs are deployed with a presumed intention of use; yet many contemporary remote lab instantiations remain underutilized. One mechanism by which remote labs are utilized is when a teacher decides to adopt a remote laboratory for instructional purposes. This thesis presents results from a multi-phase research project that has explored the information preferences of engineering educators faced with remote laboratory adoption decisions. From the UTAUT of Venkatesh et al, it is known that facilitating conditions are among the several contributing factors that lead to individual technology adoption decisions. Relevant information is such a contributing factor. This research has determined that engineering educators do have information preferences when seeking to make informed decisions regarding remote lab adoption. A four-level general taxonomy of remote laboratory information-types was emergently generated from the literature using techniques from grounded theory. The 37 second-level taxa were preferentially ordered by a cohort of engineering educators (associated with Australian universities) using a best-worst-scaling approach. A novel methodology was created to validate the preferential ordering and investigate the applicability of the remote laboratory information-type ordering. A standard-form survey was then designed to triangulate the results and affirm several key assumptions. Engineering educators clearly prefer information about experiments that can be conducted on a remote laboratory installation over information about the institutional income that might accrue during use. Other preferences are less clear-cut. While, for example, information about collaboration afforded by remote labs is clearly preferred over information about the remote lab location, information about teacher benefits is sometimes preferred over information about collaboration and vice versa. Though there is a preferential ordering of information-types, the ordering is a gradation, some types are clearly preferred over others; and other types are of co-equal value; dependent on individual proclivities. What the research did reveal was that remote lab information-types most relevant to the institution (e.g. income, expense) were disdained relative to pedagogical information-types (e.g. student benefits, visualization). The triangulation survey affirmed teacher autonomy, remote lab underutilization, and the importance of relevant information to engineering educators faced with educational technology adoption decisions.
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