Why do students appreciate LabNbook?

“LabNbook is a kind of laboratory notebook where you write everything in it. It’s a kind of follow-up. It’s like making a report on a computer that can be followed by the students and by the teachers. They can go on it to see what we’ve written, and comment on it. It’s pretty handy!”

Interviews were conducted by a speaker (who does not belong to the LabNbook team!) with students for the follow-up of the HTTP project. There is a lot of interesting stuff in them, including why students like working with LabNbook. Below is a short summary, in which we have kept some short verbatims that we find instructive:

  • LNB provides access to all the tools needed to create a report in one place:
    • “But with the diagrams included, with the tables, the equations, it’s all centralised and you can do everything at once. Frankly, that’s nice.”
  • The tools are specialised for scientific work:
    • “Basically we can make curves, we can make our curves, set them up ourselves. And I never knew how to do it. For example, in Excel, I’m sure you can do it, but actually Excel is not necessarily scientific.”
  • LNB allows you to work remotely:
    • “It’s really cool because you can work at home, at the IUT, from anywhere. That’s cool!”
    • “Whereas, for example, the practical work where we have LabNbook, where we don’t have to write [at the same time as we manipulate]. I think they’re not too stressful because you know that if you can’t do it, at least you have time afterwards.”
  • LNB facilitates iterative work:
    • “And even, writing, I find what is practical with LabNbook is that if you can ever write something, then you come back, then you can rewrite in the middle after. Because if you write on paper, you can’t. Here, working with several people, we can add to the middle.”
  • LNB allows you to organise collaboration in group work:
    • “I prefer LabNbook to the classic reports because in fact, when you do a classic report by hand, you quickly find yourself… the one who is doing the report, he’s not even doing the work, he’s writing.”
    • “We divide up the tasks. But it’s not because we divide up the tasks that we won’t work on the other’s question. We divide the tasks, but we still help each other.”
    • “Then there can be several people working on the same file. [No one has to] leave the software for someone else to use it. Here, we are all together on the same project, we can all move forward at the same time, and I think that’s really cool!”
    • “In addition, we can easily see when people have modified something or not. It shows that it has been modified, by the last person who modified it. You can see everything easily, I find it very useful.”
  • LNB helps students
    • by the guidance provided in the assignment (structuring, instructions, etc.):
      “It was more guided on LabNbook: what we had to do, the questions we had to address. Now, it’s a little less so because we’re given more autonomy in writing. But at the beginning, it gave us a good indication of what we had to do.
    • Thanks to the feedback provided by the teachers:
      “Sometimes I saw that the teacher can mark things and interact with us. Sometimes they put questions that can guide us. For example, when our physics teacher, in this case, made annotations, on our report, we had direct access to them. Even now, for example, for the revisions, we have access to it again if we want to look at what was wrong. And I think it’s good that we can get quick and clear feedback.”
  • LNB allows a great deal of freedom of use:
    • “Either you have a really empty page and you have to do everything from scratch. And in that case, it’s good because you can structure it, you can organise it as you like.”
  • LNB is easy to use:
    • “It’s quite easy to use and quite easy to understand. You don’t have to have a manual on the side. I started with it in the second semester because I didn’t do physics in the first semester. At the beginning, it’s a bit of a trial and error process, but then you quickly understand how it works, it’s not very complicated.”
    • “It’s easier than Google Doc where sometimes people can’t open the document because the person who sent it didn’t indicate that it could be modified. Here it’s automatic, so we have everything at hand.”
  • LNB saves time:
    • “On the sheet, only one person writes and sometimes it can be slow. It can slow down. I think it can go faster on LabNbook. And then even for the teachers too, it can be easier.”

Otherwise, in a more general way, this is what we noticed in our monitoring studies

  • Students are very much influenced by their teacher’s attitude towards LNB:
    • If the teacher is not comfortable with LNB or is not convinced of its usefulness, students may not be motivated either,
    • Students are often satisfied with the platform when their teacher uses it to monitor their work and give them feedback.
  • The more students use LNB (different courses, different subjects), the more they appreciate it: the learning phase is over, students acquire routines and the time saving is really tangible. Moreover, some students regret that LabNbook is not used more systematically in their different courses or that they do not have the possibility to use LabNbook on their own initiative by creating reports for courses in which the teachers have not created an assignment (it will come).

To be quite honest, there are some negative points mentioned by the students. The two main ones are

  • Difficulties in using some tools, mainly the equation editor and the data processing tool:
    • for the equation editor we are trying to debug (but it is not always easy because we are not the developers);
    • for the data processing tool, a brand new version, more complete and more ergonomic, will arrive at the beginning of 2023.
  • The impossibility of editing the same Labdoc with several people in a synchronous way: yes… and yet we do not plan to change this behaviour. Advise your students to make small labdocs, that solves the problem!

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