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October-December 2009 (vol. 2 no. 4)
pp. 331-341
Ben Hanson, University College London, London
Peter Culmer, University of Leeds, Leeds
Justin Gallagher, University of Leeds, Leeds
Kate Page, University of Leeds, Leeds
Elizabeth Read, Royal Academy of Engineering, London
Andrew Weightman, University of Leeds, Leeds
Martin Levesley, University of Leeds, Leeds
Remote laboratories are increasingly being developed to provide students with Web-based access to real laboratory experiments. The demonstrable advantages (e.g., increased accessibility) are tempered by concerns that remote access will be substituted for "hands-on” practical work, and reduce interaction between students. We argue that these concerns can be avoided if remote labs are used appropriately, as with any other pedagogical method. We review studies that have made direct comparisons between remote and hands-on labs, and analyze the important similarities and differences by considering the students' physical and psychological experiences. A case study is presented: "ReLOAD”, which has been in operation since 2001 providing remote operation of dynamic experiments in Mechanical Engineering, featuring personalized experiments, immediate automated grading and feedback, and collaborative learning. We present results from online surveys and from focus groups of students' opinions and experiences with hands-on and remote labs. Drawing from this experience, the characteristic properties of remote-access labs are investigated from a pedagogical perspective. We find that many of the differences and similarities between the modalities are controllable factors, to greater or lesser extents, and provide examples of remote labs offering some valuable educational advantages which are not possible with traditional labs.

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Index Terms:
Engineering, collaborative learning, distance learning, personalized e-learning.
Citation:
Ben Hanson, Peter Culmer, Justin Gallagher, Kate Page, Elizabeth Read, Andrew Weightman, Martin Levesley, "ReLOAD: Real Laboratories Operated at a Distance," IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 331-341, Oct.-Dec. 2009, doi:10.1109/TLT.2009.35
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