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?

  • Remote instrumentation and online laboratories have been the Holy Grail of K-20 educators from the beginning of the Internet Age. One of the interesting challenges in find a model that scales in education has been the relational gap between the research community( owners of the infrastructure) and the K-20 instructional community. If one attends relevant conferences and meetings one will find that there is no real venue to bring these two core stakeholders together with the mission of sharing resources. On the other hand there are some excellent examples of initiatives moving us toward shared remote assets. https://osep.northwestern.edu/projects/ilab , www.Merlot.org , http://www.wiche.edu/nanslo. - mabbiatti mabbiatti May 20, 2015Mike Abbiatti (- kim.owen kim.owen Jun 17, 2015)
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  • I believe the use of virtual labs in K-12 will continue to increase. There seems to be more information on their use in K-12 than there was last year. This technology will continue to require high speed internet, and because it is not always being available in schools the use of virtual labs has not had adequate opportunity to launch.- jmorrison jmorrison May 20, 2015

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

  • The description should provide examples of who has remote instrumentation and labs, and who need them. In addition, the fact that remote instrumentation and labs are a very effective tool to bring the K-12 and higher ed communities closer together under the umbrella of reciprocal benefit.- mabbiatti mabbiatti May 20, 2015Mike Abbiatti
  • Real remotely controlled scientific instruments, as opposed to simulations of instruments, require both high speed and high quality bandwidth in order to function correctly. Controlling an electron microscope or mass spectrometer and the like demands very low jitter, latency, packet loss, etc. This is exactly the sort of bandwidth offered to schools from r&e networks nationwide. As Mike points out, the majority of these instruments are physically located at r&e connected research universities and labs. If we can better align these three groups - K-12/higher ed and the r&e networking community that connects them both with their advanced networking infrastructure - we may finally begin to see the effective use of these remotely controlled scientific instruments as a teaching/learning tool across K-12 at scale. - jwerle jwerle May 27, 2015 (- kim.owen kim.owen Jun 17, 2015)

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

  • Remote instrumentation and online labs are a core component of the success of the conceptual framework of personalized learning/adaptive learning and freeing the learner populations from the historical limitations of the "traditional" institution. Remote assets inherently bring extensibility into the teaching/learning/creative inquiry milieu. There is something for every stakeholder 1) the learner has affordable access to otherwise unobtainable tools, expertise, and information, 2) the day-to-day user of the asset has a new, dynamic set of minds and eyes to process his/her work, and 3) the institution owning the asset has an opportunity to increase ROI associated withe asset. All three benefits can be leveraged for sustainability over time at each operational level.- mabbiatti mabbiatti May 20, 2015Mike Abbiatti
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


  • Virtual and Remote Laboratories

By Deborah B Sorgi, Ed.D.
Virtual and Remote Laboratories are designed to make physical science laboratory more easily available to learners remotely via the web. Schools that don’t have access to specialized teachers and high quality physical labs can still offer students stellar content and best practices through online applications and curriculum. Combine these laboratories with student response systems and you have a convenient way to continuously conduct ad hoc formative assessment.- jmorrison jmorrison May 20, 2015

Long distance Labs.
http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3758370- jmorrison jmorrison May 20, 2015

Virtual Labs, All good?
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/education_futures/2013/10/virtual_laboratories_-_all_good.html- jmorrison jmorrison May 20, 2015

Some examples of virtual labs come from the HP Catalyst Project, including the Hands-on Information Technology Virtual Laboratory and Project Access, and K12, the online learning company.
http://www.districtadministration.com/article/school-technology-trends-3d- jmorrison jmorrison May 20, 2015

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