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?

  • We provide online distance learning courses in Science and Engineering. Many are restricted because of the need for practical work. This restricts the audience size and also inhibits cost reduction. - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
  • Virtual and remote laboratories are an important development given the expense of laboratory provision both in terms of space, equipment and maintenance. There is scope for simulatiing hazardous processes prior to the real experience, and for CPD training and development. Increasingly publishers include simple online simulations of experiments with texts. These are probably better termed animations. However, the rise of OERs will expand the library of simulators. However, mainstream (rather than narrow specialist) development of high quality resource, especially of the immersive variety, will be beyond the capability of most subject experts and the resource envelope of most institutions. Like the MOOC development the quality end of this market will be the preserve of the elite or of markets that will pay a return on the development.- b.murphy1 b.murphy1 Feb 14, 2015
  • Simulators apart the broadcast of laboratory demonstrations is a realistic achievment for all irish HEIs. This is akin to lecture capture but requires more detailed planning, video production and post editing to bring the detail to life and to add commentary. Resources of this variety will suit on-campus students to prepare and review; it will facilitate eductaional partnerships regionally and globally; and may be used to engage school pupils and raise aspiration to progress to higher education.- b.murphy1 b.murphy1 Feb 14, 2015

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

  • There seems to be little done on sharing knowledge and resources in this field. Simulations can be shared at very little marginal costs, and the designs for physical equipment can also be shared. i am not aware of an effective international community working on sharing. This needs to be funded. In addition to covering simulation and remote access, it should also cover the design and sourcing of cheap kits for home use. - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on third-level education in Ireland?

  • This will enable us to be more active internationally in online distance learning - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan
  • This will facilitate lower costs in engineering and science education - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
  • Research indicates that a mix of simulation and practical work improves learning outcomes - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015

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

  • We provide remote access to specially designed physical equipment - brian.mulligan brian.mulligan Feb 11, 2015
  • add your response here

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