Food processing and engineering modules have related laboratory exercise. However, there is only one set of food processing and engineering equipment for teaching and students have to run their experiments on rotated basis throughout the semester. They may also need to run these laboratory exercises once rotation is due even before the lectures are taught in the classroom.
Students may not have the theoretical knowledge prior to conducting the lab experiments so they may have difficulty understanding the lab sessions. In addition, each student has to finish a unit operation experiment in less than 3 hours. Therefore, the actual learning effects from labs are significantly compromised.
Therefore, we proposed an approach using virtual laboratory exercises. Once the students finish these virtual laboratory exercises before their onsite experiments, they will run the onsite physical laboratory exercise more efficiently and successfully. We also established an online forum on Facebook to teach them how to seek professional help and communicate with professionals effectively and affordably.
The project helped address the contradiction of large population of students for laboratory exercise while very limited set of equipment is available. The project also addressed the problems that undergraduate students do not know well how and where to seek professional help from online forums.