Engineering Education (Remote Laboratories)

   School of Engineering

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  Prof T Drysdale, Dr T Stratford, Dr J Terry  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a PhD in Engineering Education based in the Remote Laboratories activity led by Prof Tim Drysdale, Chair of Technology Enhanced Science Education, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh. The co-supervision team comprises Prof Tim Stratford, Personal Chair of Civil Engineering Design & Dean of Learning and Teaching College of Science and Engineering, and Dr Jonathan Terry, Course Organiser for Engineering Design 1, School of Engineering.

Remote laboratories allow students to do practical work with real equipment, in real-time, from anywhere by connecting to the equipment through a web-browser. At the University of Edinburgh we are leading the creation of an open-source digital infrastructure for remote laboratories ( and coupling physical and software developments with educational research so as to translate leading education theory into practice.

This addresses the requirement for institutions to deliver more experiential learning, to more students, over a wider geographic area, together with developing much-needed alternative approaches for feedback and authentic assessment in the higher education sector. The UN has recently highlighted the fundamental importance of free and open public digital infrastructures in education. We are committed to open-source developments and lowering the barrier to all in participating in modern digital education.

The successful candidate will develop and evaluate remote laboratory-based teaching exercises for large classes of engineering students (>450) at the University of Edinburgh, which will then go on to be used around the country and further afield. We currently deliver traditional laboratories over a wide range of engineering teaching with examples including labs on the strength of materials, chemical processes, renewable energy devices, dynamics, microcontrollers, electronics, and control systems amongst others. Our remote experiments either complement or extend these, with examples including harmonic motion, rotational position and velocity control, strain in truss structures, electromagnetic measurements, and forthcoming experiments in microcontroller programming and electronic sensing.

Our Remote Laboratories activity has dedicated technical support for mechanical and electronic design and production, so the work in the PhD can concentrate on research aspects such as designing the educational activities, implementing customised user interfaces (javascript), new digital assessment methods (python), and undertaking mixed method evaluations such as surveys and focus groups. Optional extension work includes cloud infrastructure (go) and/or microcontroller firmware (C/C++). Effective communication skills are important because you will be interacting widely, with students, demonstrators, technicians, support staff, and other academics. Your developments will generate internationally-leading engineering education research in areas such as digital pedagogy, learning analytics, evaluative judgement and authentic assessment.

Essential criteria

- 2:1 or higher degree in a numerate subject

- strong digital literacies, including software development (any language)

- strong communication skills

Desirable criteria

- experience of programming in javascript/vue.js, python, go, and/or C/C++

- informal or professional teaching experience

- digital education experience or qualifications

To Apply:

The position will be closed as soon as a suitable candidate has been found. 

Engineering (12) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and international students.


[1] D.Reid, J. Burridge, D. Lowe, T. Drysdale "Open-source remote laboratory experiments for controls engineering education," International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education. February 2022. doi:10.1177/03064190221081451
[2] T. D. Drysdale, S. Kelley, A.-M. Scott, V. Dishon, A. Weightman, R. J. Lewis & S. Watts "Opinion piece: non-traditional practical work for traditional campuses," Higher Education Pedagogies, 5:1, 210-222, 2020, DOI: 10.1080/23752696.2020.1816845
[3] For an introduction to the concept of remote labs see these videos from Tim’s earlier award-winning large-scale remote laboratory work
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