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Abstract: Context: Engineering analysis software packages are regularly used in industry for solving problems. Therefore, it has become a necessity for the engineering academics to teach the students how to use software for solving problems. Academics face considerable challenges while teaching distance education students. The challenge arises not only from teaching the students we cannot see but also how the students access and use the software from home. In fact, providing proper software access to off-campus students (up to the students' satisfaction) is not an easy task. The access process involves multiple technical issues. Diverse and dispersed student cohorts working in another part of the world at a different time zone, make the situation even trickier. The complexity increases further depending on how easy it is to learn the software and how technically involved the software is.

Purpose: In this paper, we present an example of how we are teaching the Strand7 software to our off-campus students at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). The challenges we had faced over the years and the performances of various technologies that we have implemented, the learning and teaching activities we have designed, are discussed in detail. This paper can serve as a guide for options to teach software online.

Approach: We have implemented various technologies for providing remote access, and have designed learning and teaching activities for online teaching. In addition, we have provided recordings of live video tutorials as learning resources showing how to use the software Strand7. The performance of each technology was judged based on students' satisfaction and whether the intended learning outcomes were achieved or not.

Results: Progressively, we have implemented various technologies including Virtual Desktops, Remote Access Laboratories (RALs) and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for providing remote access. We have found that multiple technical factors, some of them beyond our control, affected the system performance badly. These technologies failed to provide viable long-term options for the online teaching of engineering analysis software. Therefore, we have explored other avenues. The current option in which the Strand7 Company provides the service to the students for a nominal charge is perhaps one of the best. Other options including the software CD provided by the Company for a limited period or the Student Version/Open Source software packages are also good.

Conclusions: Teaching online students how to use engineering analysis software packages comes with an additional challenge of providing remote access. We have trialled various technologies for providing this service with limited success. We found that other options including the service provided by the Company or Student Versions/Open Source software packages are perhaps better alternatives. We found that our designed learning and teaching activities along with the video tutorials helped the distance education students to achieve similar learning outcomes as the face-to-face students.

To cite this article: Banerjee, Sourish; Karunasena, Warna and Kist, Alexander A. Challenges of teaching engineering analysis software to distance education students [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 55-61. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=679021182816921;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 27 Apr 17].

Personal Author: Banerjee, Sourish; Karunasena, Warna; Kist, Alexander A; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 55-61. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Engineering--Computer network resources; Engineering--Study and teaching; Distance education--Computer-assisted instruction; University of Southern Queensland; Problem solving--Study and teaching; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia 4350, email: Sourish.Banerjee@usq.edu.au
(2) University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia 4350
(3) University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia 4350

Database: Engineering Collection