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News & Press: Hoosier Surveyor

Coronavirus-related changes affect college surveying labs

Wednesday, May 13, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mike Davis, Hoosier Surveyor editor-in-chief
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For land surveying students at Indiana colleges — especially those whose courses included outdoor lab exercises — the spring semester took on a much different look about the middle of March.


As the coronavirus outbreak grew, distance learning became the standard for education throughout the state. Getting hands-on experience with surveying instruments proved to be a bigger challenge.


At Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where Jacob Hoffman, PS is an instructor, in-the-field lab work in his Fundamentals of Surveying course was suspended after spring break.


With the campus closed, students didn’t have access to any of the school’s instruments. “We couldn’t really utilize any of the labs,” Hoffman said. “This is really problematic . . . because so much of learning the basics involves the hands-on usage of the equipment."


Instead, students received copies of remaining lecture slides and information, and Hoffman was available by email to discuss questions they might have. Grades would be maintained at least where they were before spring break, remaining homework assignments were offered as extra credit, and a final lab practical or exam was not required.


At Vincennes University, where Jessica Hess, LS is the coordinator for the surveying technology program, hitting deadlines and accommodating the resources of all students meant adopting an approach of “This may not be the most ideal way to handle it, but it is only half a semester and temporary.”


She said it was easy to transition some classes, such as ones that focused on calculations and textbook theory, and the students were close to graduating, had substantial hands-on experience or were working for surveying companies.


"For more basic level classes, I resorted to making videos of some field work processes,” she said. Examples of content included how to set up a base and rover Global Navigation Satellite System unit and what to consider and steps to follow in taking measurements. Students answered questions on worksheets that were process-related and dealt with provided measurement data.


Hess also used Google Earth to prepare a slide show that showed the relief of a site. Students needed to mark where they would take field shots to produce a contour map in Civil 3D, and she then provided data to be used with a student license version of the software to create a contour plat of the site. Students who didn’t have computers that met the software’s specifications received worksheets that guided them through the same steps they would follow in CAD, and they were to use a Civil 3D textbook in completing them.


"I'm also utilizing any available webinars I can find that relate to the topics we would have normally covered,” she said. “For students who will be returning for fall classes, I plan to ‘catch them up’ on the hands-on components as a part of their other surveying classes.”


With fall plans still in flux, she hopes for a return to normal — but also will be prepared to switch to online courses if necessary. Students will be encouraged to get computers that can run common software used at the school, and she plans to develop alternative lab options.


This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of the Hoosier Surveyor.

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