University of Strathclyde



This case study describes the introduction of online asynchronous forums in experimental engineering laboratory classes, to facilitate discussion and comparison of results from different experiments.


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Faculty of Engineering

Contact Details

Dr Patricia Muñoz-Escalona




As the experimental lab was restricted to 1 hour, there was not much time to be able to incorporate extra data to expand students' knowledge. By incorporating the online forums two groups of 8 students were able to conduct the same experiment under different conditions (i.e. different materials), this allowed them to analyse their own results and compare the differences obtained as the outcomes of each material; for example the influence of chemical composition on the mechanical properties of a material subjected to a rolling milling process.


Positive impact for students:

  • Helped them to enhance and expand their knowledge in principles of materials science, but also to introduce e-learning activities to first year undergraduate students in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace
  • Involving students with online forums at an early stage of a student’s undergraduate studies provides them with the confidence to use them successfully in the future

Examples of students' feedback:

  • “Found the online forum to be most useful for sharing results and resolving any issues or misunderstandings”.
  • “I think the lab A greatly expanded my knowledge of both metals and crystal structures and in fact encouraged me to look further into the topic which greatly improved the quality of my group's car dissection poster”. 
  • “Enjoyed Lab B much more having done Lab A and experienced the forums. Seemed confusing at the start but a good way of learning and interacting with colleagues
  • “Personally I prefer face to face interactions but appreciate that this isn't possible due to time restrictions therefore in this case the forums are useful but they are a new concept to myself and others and take a bit of getting used to”
  • “Personally I found the online forum difficult to use after lab A as I was unsure of what sort of things to post due to never using a discussion forum before. However my opinion of online forums has completely changed after Lab B, the forum was much easier to use as I had a better understanding of what to post”.

80% of the students (group of 170) agreed that the online asynchronous forums are a useful platform to use to compare results and to enhance and increase knowledge when face to face contact time for experimental laboratory activities is restricted.

Lessons Learnt

This activity takes time to set it up and it takes even more time to review the forums, especially for the first time that students are using them (Lab A). For Lab B the process was easier for staff as well as students, who were more familiar to Myspace and the activity itself.

I don’t think I would do anything differently. The students and myself are happy with the outcomes.


Online forums were something new for 65% of the class. This activity was challenging especially when exposing their ideas to the online group, when they don't know what to post, etc.

A huge challenge was the fact that students were not familiar with MyPlace (i.e. layout, navigation, etc)


The activity is scalable to large class sizes, however it is recommended to keep small amount of participants in the forums (max 16)

Suggestions for Transferability

I recommend this type of activity in other labs where there is time restriction. However I also encourage my students from 2nd and 4th year to post their doubts in the class forum.




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