Assessing In-Person versus Remote Learning Gains: An Endeavor to Extend the Engineering Education Environment

Alyssa Richtarek, Victoria Bennett, Ryan Carkin, Yevgeniya V. Zastavker, Casper Harteveld, Tarek Abdoun

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The abrupt shift to a primarily remote environment for higher education learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic left many academic institutions unprepared to provide students with the quality of education traditionally expected in an in-person modality. Students were deprived of the hands-on activities and shared experiences of in-person learning that increase engagement, learning, and the overall educational experience that students rely on to grow as people and engineers. The lab-based nature of Geo-Education has rendered it particularly susceptible to this issue. New tools capable of bringing hands-on learning to remote students and an instructional focus on promoting shared experiences in this new era of learning are essential for the continued development of students in higher education through the COVID-19 pandemic and other future disruptions. The GeoExplorer CPT Operator module is a mixed reality environment that was adopted for remote implementations in the Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 semesters. Originally developed to advance and equalize how undergraduate civil engineering students obtain geotechnical field experience, GeoExplorer gave in-person and remote students the opportunity to simulate hands-on learning when most other opportunities for this style of learning were impossible. This mixed reality platform was presented to students in the same modality as laboratory experiments for which students would typically go into the physical laboratory space in the Spring 2021 semester, which is the focus of this paper. The difference between students interacting with this platform and other shared experience interventions when in-person versus remote was leveraged to assess the ability of these strategies to augment or fully replace hands-on experiences. Mixed methods data acquired through surveys, intermediate quizzes, laboratory reports, and interviews show the benefit of using mixed reality platforms in remote learning with respect to both engagement and learning gains. This research found that there was a difference in grades between remote and in-person students, and that there are new approaches to instruction and shared experience strategies that can help equalize the experience for in-person and remote learning. This attempt at equalization may be what carries students through times of future disruption to higher education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-533
Number of pages9
JournalGeotechnical Special Publication
Issue numberGSP 336
StatePublished - 2022
Event2022 GeoCongress: State of the Art and Practice in Geotechnical Engineering - Advances in Monitoring and Sensing; Embankment, Slopes, and Dams; Pavements; and Geo-Education - Charlotte, United States
Duration: Mar 20 2022Mar 23 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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