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?

  • This technology might be very relevant for the medical education environment that I work in. At the same time, I think that the equipment is needed for research purposes also and therefore institute are perhaps not willing to use these tools for education only. What is lacking in the description is whether the technology would allow for collaborative research. - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 18, 2014
  • Lab sciences remain one of the last, great frontiers of online education. If online labs can pass two tests, then online, hard sciences will become a reality. Test one: Quality online labs that meet the current standards for lab education. Two: Widespread acceptance that online labs are as good as "the real thing." - david.thomas david.thomas - helga helga Oct 24, 2014
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(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 higher education?

  • Potential impact is large but I do not expect actual implementation of this technology in the near future. - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 18, 2014
  • Lab science are the gateway to most health careers. Considering the demand for health workers and the subsequent demand for health education, the availability of quality, online lab sciences offers a tremendous impact to scale and access to students interested in these career paths. Creating online and remote laboratory experiences is a critical path to the future of health industry staffing!- david.thomas david.thomas Oct 21, 2014
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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