Interactive Lab Gives IT Students Real-World Experience

September 14, 2020

Two students work the control panel in an interactive lab.

Kyle Shearrer and Jessica Weinberg adjust video settings in the IDE Lab, an interactive lab for Mizzou Engineering.

The Information Technology Program at Mizzou Engineering is known for giving students real-world experience to complement their coursework. Now, a new interactive lab is providing a realistic work environment for students, as well.

Three students are operating the Interactive Digital Environments Lab, which opened in Lafferre Hall in August. The IDE Lab provides a studio-like setting where engineering faculty members can pre-record lectures, demonstrations and other materials for online classes.

The students serve as Peer Learning Assistants. They work behind the scenes to make sure the production runs smoothly. The PLAs help set up equipment, adjust lighting, frame the cameras, operate the switchboard and edit during a post-production stage to make sure the final product meets an instructor’s goals.

“I’ve learned so much since I started working in this lab,” said Persephone Gloeckner-Suits, a senior IT major. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity. I feel that I had a good amount of prior knowledge going into this, but nothing that I’ve learned in the classroom compares to the actual hands-on experience I’ve gained from working in the lab.”

Kyle Shearrer, also a senior IT major, is specifically interested in film and digital media. The lab, he said, allows him to be a part of every aspect of the process.

“I learn most from practice and doing,” he said, “and we are going to be doing a lot.”

In addition to the technical skills, students must work closely with faculty to set up and prepare for recordings and to explain the process. Those communication and customer service skills translate to any field, Gloeckner-Suits said.

But it also lets IT students put their major into practice.

“In the IT Program, we are usually regarded as technology experts,” Junior Jessica Weinberg  said. “The IDE Lab allows us to live up to that title.”

A Much-Needed Resource

The IDE Lab came about, in part, to help faculty members transition to online class settings during COVID-19. While some classes are in seat with social distancing in place, others remain virtual.

The lab makes it easy for any faculty member to create online lectures that are exciting and engaging for students learning online, Gloeckner-Suits said.

That’s why students encourage more Mizzou Engineering faculty to use the lab.

“The work the IT Program is doing with the IDE Lab is one of the best resources teachers have at their disposal right now,” Shearrer said. “The College of Engineering should take every advantage of this lab, and other colleges would do well to take note of the work we are doing.”

The interactive lab is currently open to Mizzou Engineering faculty and students. But students agreed a similar resource would benefit any educator.

“This lab has done and will do wonders for the college,” she said. “The IDE Lab is a wonderful example of how good Mizzou is at adapting to changes and creating solutions.”