Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Remote Laboratories: Design of Experiments and Their Web Implementation

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Remote Laboratories: Design of Experiments and Their Web Implementation

Article excerpt


The importance of hands-on experimentation in the undergraduate electrical engineering curricula is well established. A remote laboratory provides a web-based platform to the students to access, control and perform experiment from remote locations. Increasingly electrical engineering departments are beginning to incorporate remotely operated hardware-based laboratories in laboratory curricula. Several institutions have also developed remote laboratories as a supplement to their existing laboratory infrastructures. Provided the experiments are set up to run without the need for human intervention, remote laboratories can be made available via the Internet on a 24x7 basis, facilitating access at all times that accommodate individual student's needs. It is a group effort, where content authors (educators), instructional designers, multimedia technicians, database administrators, and people from other areas of expertise come together to serve the community of learners. To date, very few studies have been performed to determine the special requirements needed for the design of laboratory modules consisting of several experiments and their web implementation and the effectiveness of the designed experiments towards the fulfillment of the educational goals of traditional laboratories.

In this paper, first a brief overview of state-of-the-art technologies in the development of remote hardware-based laboratories is given. The development of a remote laboratory module faces several challenges; in design and implementation of the experiments for web launching, the online laboratory learning environment design that ensures strong, effective, accessible, and secure student interaction that best replaces the face-to-face (F2F) interaction that takes place in conventional laboratories. The paper is organized as follows. Section II presents a brief review and the desired pedagogical features of remote laboratory education. Section III discusses how the traditional laboratory experiments can be modified and tailored for online delivery. Section IV describes various experiment classification schemes. Section V discusses the instructor's role in laboratory management system. Section VI describes the laboratory architecture. Section VII discusses the implementation issues of a hardware-based remote laboratory module and authentication and access control issues. A case study is discussed in Section VIII. Section IX presents the results of evaluation of the remote laboratory followed by conclusions and future directions.

Pedagogical features

Online laboratories are classified into remote experiments (based on actual physical setup) and virtual experiments (based on simulation). In majority of cases, the remotely accessible online laboratories reported in the literature are dispersed around the world and represent stand-alone systems. Hardware-based remote laboratories are being successfully used in electrical engineering education. Several remote laboratories in which the learners interact and operate the hardware from a remote location are now operational at various universities (Harward et al., 2008; Fjeldly, & Shur, 2003; Gomes, 2007; Auer, 2003; Trevelyan, 2004; Maiti, 2010a). Internet laboratory courses covering many other disciplines of engineering and science are being offered to students worldwide. A few examples include MIT iLab, European Schoolnet, and PROLEARN, besides many other individual and/or collaborative distance laboratory efforts all over the world. Recently, the world consortium Library of Laboratory (LILA) has been formed to furthering the use of the remote laboratory in engineering education.

Several interesting reviews on remote electronic laboratories have appeared (Sivakumar, 2005; Campbell, 2002). Guimaraes et al. have discussed the design and implementation of remote laboratories (Guimaraes, 2011). State-ofthe-art technologies used in the development of remote laboratories have been presented by Gomes and Bogosyan (Gomes, 2009). …

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