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IBLC11-Abstract-Developing web accessible laboratories for systems engineering students

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Nannayi Dakat
13 May 2011

Author: Dr J. Anthony Rossiter


This paper first discusses the importance of development and integration of web accessible laboratories into undergraduate engineering programmes. Then it describes how and why The University of Sheffield has decided to design such laboratories.

It is well recognised that the provision of laboratory activities is an essential part of engineering programmes. However, it is costly, especially in terms of the learning benefit, and this in conjunction with space and timetable restrictions implies that, in practice, students have limited access to experiments. Consequently there is a desire to obtain the learning benefits of students experimenting on real hardware while overcoming space, cost and timetable restrictions. An obvious solution to this is to make experiments available outside the normal timetable and also, in such a manner that students do need supervision or access to buildings that may shut at 5 or 6pm.

It is known however that experiments on their own have limited impact on student learning unless they are properly integrated into the curriculum. Clearly, the same argument applies to remote laboratories; students need to understand why they are relevant and what they will benefit from engaging with them. Moreover, pragmatically, there needs to be some means of ensuring students participate and/or monitoring this.

Hence, this paper will focus on two aspects of remote laboratories. First experiences in the design and build of two laboratories. Of particular interest to readers may be the synchronisation with a University database which is not something many remote laboratories offer. Such a linkage allows proper monitoring of student interactions but also comes with some disadvantages which will be discussed. Secondly, there is discussion on the pedagogical aspects of how the laboratories are designed to fit neatly into and complement the curriculum, and of course, some student evaluation of this latter point.

Keywords: Virtual Laboratory, Web accessible Laboratory,

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