Virginia Tech Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Vinod Lohani, professor of Engineering Education, for developing an instructional approach summarized through three thrusts: (a) create an interactive learning environment in the classroom using technology or other means, (b) collaborate with experts to incorporate educational theories and assessment practices into engineering instruction for enhancing learning, and (c) excite students about the engineering profession by having them participate in authentic and contemporary learning experiences.
Dr. Lohani’s philosophy of engaging students in large classes is consistent with the recommendations made in the National Research Council’s (2000) publication, How People Learn. Beginning in the 2006-07 academic year, Dr. Lohani took the lead on implementing Tablet PCs and DyKnow technologies into large (120-300 students) freshman engineering courses to develop a classroom “feedback loop,” as advocated in a classical text on Classroom Assessment Techniques. DyKnow is an Internet-enabled classroom interaction software that allows instructors to develop an interactive environment by collecting digital feedback from students in real-time. From 2004 to 2009, Dr. Lohani collaborated with a team of engineering and education faculty to reform the curriculum for the Biological Systems Engineering department using Jerome Bruner’s spiral theory approach. This $1 million+ NSF project introduced the spiral theory approach into an engineering program at VT for the first time. Since that time, Dr. Lohani has introduced this learning theory approach to several faculty in various other engineering departments. As a co-coordinator of a freshman engineering course (Engineering Exploration ENGE 1024; ~1,700 students each year), from 2005 to 2012, Dr. Lohani was a key member of a team of faculty and graduate students responsible for updating this course by introducing: (a) an early design experiences with sustainability theme, (b) creative problem solving activities, (c) nanotechnology learning modules, (d) LabVIEW modules, (e) study abroad presentations, and (f) activities designed to develop professional skills including teamwork, communication, and ethics. These curricular interventions have motivated Dr. Lohani’s doctoral students to develop research projects. For example, introduction of LabVIEW modules into ENGE 1024 led to the development of a unique water and weather monitoring lab (LabVIEW Enabled Watershed Assessment System--LEWAS) on an on-campus Creek. Currently, this lab hosts an NSF/REU Site on Interdisciplinary Water Sciences and Engineering and a curriculum enhancement project supported by the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Lohani’s innovative instructional activities have been recognized with multiple awards from the Dean of Engineering. He was awarded a Faculty Fellow Award in 2008, the W. S. “Pete” White Innovation in Engineering Education Award in 2010, and a Teaching Excellence Award in 2011. In 2013, he received a Certificate of Excellence in VT’s X-Caliber award competition. He was also a recipient of VT’s Teaching and Learning Award in 2013. In fall 2013, Virginia Tech nominated him for the 2014 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Award (teaching with technology category).
Dr. Lohani taught his first class at VT in fall 1994 when he was a graduate student and still enjoys the below feedback from his first batch of students: “Get your graduate degree and continue teaching.” “You are a great teacher, please continue to teach; become a teacher for Tech.”
Some example feedback from more recent students regarding the SPOT evaluation question, “What did the instructor do well in teaching this class?,” includes the following: “[He was] interactive, and used technology effectively”; “He made me want to come to lecture”; “He made me a laugh!”; “He made engineering fun”; “He was very enthusiastic”; “He used DyKnow to make feedback possible”; “[He] taught with enthusiasm”; “[He] tried to always engage the class during lecture”; “Relating subject matter to real-world situations”; “Enthusiasm”; “Concern for students”; “Using DyKnow to present information”; “High energy and very good understanding of materials”; “Excited about class”; “[He was] very animated and moved around class”; “He showed how engineering is very important in this world”; and, “[He] provided interesting examples and comparisons, which made material more interesting and appealing.”
Resource: LEWAS - Teaching and Research Lab