What are Remote Laboratories?

Remote laboratories provide a virtual interface to a real, physical laboratory. Institutions that do not have access to certain 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 professional laboratory tools from wherever they are, whenever they need. Additionally, remote labs alleviate some financial burden from 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?

  • The use of remote labs helps distance learning students to avoid travelling for carrying out their practices. They can use real equipment from home. - Sergio Sergio Jul 21, 2012
  • Because of the computer-moderated interface, remote labs also allow augmentation of the laboratory experience. This can include aspects such as inclusion of additional information and overlaying video with aspects that are normally not visible (consider a magnetics labs where the field lines become visible). - David.Lowe David.Lowe Aug 9, 2012
  • The remote lab makes collaborative research possible. It extends the teaching lab of "less wealthy" educational institutions, it encourages exploration above and beyond what is possible at the "home site." - Russ.Meier Russ.Meier Aug 19, 2012

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

  • Do we have data on where these are/just how widespread are they? They seem to have been around a long time but not that widepsread (setup cost?). - Nick Nick Aug 5, 2012 I agree that the idea has been around for some time, but the technology has become MUCH EASIER to implement, and there are variants now available to even high schools. Still, the practice is not widespread, making it one of the best kept secrets - jim.vanides jim.vanides Aug 6, 2012
  • - jim.vanides jim.vanides Aug 6, 2012 I think it's important to point out the growing variety of "remote labs" that are now possible to make available to our students:
  • Be sure to indicate the distinction between online REMOTE labs and online SIMULATIONS; both are valuable, but support different experiences and goals. My personal view that an ideal STEM(+) learning experience would include hands-on PHYSICAL lab experiences are still important, but student learning can be enriched in many ways by adding REMOTE (actual) and online SIMULATED labs - jim.vanides jim.vanides Aug 6, 2012
  • - auer2212 auer2212 Aug 7, 2012 We should clearly separate between "remote labs" (real equipment controlled via Web) and "virtual labs" (in principle simulations, but not only). The umbrella term is "online labs".
  • It is important to acknowledge the opportunity for "augmented" interactions with the apparatus (see point 1); provision of richer contexts; embedding of labs into real-world environments; large scale collaborations and data sharing.... - David.Lowe David.Lowe Aug 9, 2012
  • I agree with Jim Vanides that hands-on laboratories are fundamental to student learning. Remote labs supplement tactile labs done in person. The key to good use of technology in pedagogy is mixing the available tools in a smart sensible way. Not every university wants to use remote labs. Some universities have no choice. - Russ.Meier Russ.Meier Aug 19, 2012

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on STEM+ education?

  • STEM+ students will be able to interact as much time as they want and at the moment that they prefer from equipment usually only available in a laboratory during few hours every year. - Sergio Sergio Jul 22, 2012
  • For STUDENTS, remote laboratories are more than just convenient, as they 1) provide access to a much wider array of equipment, in some cases from other institutions - expanding learning opportunities and leveling the playing field. This is especially true for online students who do not attend an on-ground campus; 2) 24x7 remote access means students can do MORE science than before (reference: iLabs Project at Northwestern University), iterating and exploring beyond the normal "class period" assigned to typical on-ground lab sections - jim.vanides jim.vanides Aug 6, 2012
  • For INSTITUTIONS, the capital utilization goes way UP as the idle time is converted into user-time. When inter-institutional agreements are made, online labs create an opportunity for cost sharing, reducing the overall cost of providing high-end lab experiences to more students (reference: Boise State University "rising cloud" project that is sharing remote blade workstations with pre-engineering students at nearby high schools) - jim.vanides jim.vanides Aug 6, 2012
  • A rethinking of the role of experiential learning and the types of experiences which are feasible to construct. - David.Lowe David.Lowe Aug 9, 2012
  • For SOCIETY, better educated students that have seen physics and mathematics actually operating because they had access to the remote lab and didn't "just see the theory."- Russ.Meier Russ.Meier Aug 19, 2012

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

Please share information about related projects via our NMC Horizon Report project submission form.