What are Virtual and Remote Laboratories?

Virtual and remote laboratories reflect a movement among education institutions to make the equipment and elements of a physical science laboratory more easily available to learners from any location, via the web. Virtual laboratories are web applications that emulate the operation of real laboratories and enable students to practice in a “safe” environment before using real, physical components. Students can typically access virtual labs 24/7, from wherever they are, and run the same experiments over and over again. Some emerging virtual lab platforms also incorporate reporting templates that populate with the results of the experiments so that students and teachers can easily review the outcomes. Remote laboratories, on the other hand, provide a virtual interface to a real, physical laboratory. Institutions that do not have access to high-caliber lab equipment can run experiments and perform lab work online, accessing the tools from a central location. Users are able to manipulate the equipment and watch the activities unfold via a webcam on a computer or mobile device. This provides students with a realistic view of system behavior and allows them access to professional laboratory tools from anywhere, whenever they need. Additionally, remote labs alleviate some financial burden for institutions as they can forgo purchasing specific equipment and use the remote tools that are at their disposal.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Mar 31, 2016For Junior High or High School aged students this has great potential.
  • Seeing a strong uptick in the virtual labs concept through the increased presence of content companies moving into this space. Promising, but still too expensive. - len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • We're considering Virtual Robots since we can't seem to find the budget for real ones! ;) http://www.robotvirtualworlds.com/ - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 26, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Mar 31, 2016I have done some reading on this approach. Many leading American universities, including Stanford and Harvard were working on prototypes for implementation in the Common Core Science, but the full implementation would be contingent on US Government funding. I have not followed this up, but the deep concern was that the US government would not fully fund this for all public schools (as all educators would hope) because there has been and likely will be a skewing of resource allocation in America - more to the haves, less to the have nots (unfortunately). I am a Canadian teacher working in Japan, but my concern is that these brilliant efforts may die for lack of funding, and secondly that much of this wonderful work - if it does see the light of day - may only be available in the US market.
  • Enhances current 'real-lab sites'. Definitely a part of the curriculum and can reduce costs as well as provide greater experiences for students. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Apr 8, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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