1. when the students are studying at a distance from the institution;
2. when the equipment required for the desired experimental work is considered prohibitively expensive;
3. when it is difficult to cope with large student numbers given the lab space available.
• a Flash Communications server to support collaborative learning via videoconferencing;
• a proprietary scheduling/booking application that enabled the students to reserve one-hour slots in the remote labs;
• an underlying e-learning package that integrated the modules referred above and all pedagogical contents that were necessary to carry out the required remote experiments.
• The teachers drafted a metascript description (used by the students to start their work) and built a corresponding workshop activity within Moodle (including the definition of deadlines and grading schemes).
• The remote lab equipment was set up to support the practical tasks required from the students and the corresponding interface panels were brought together (e.g., using a set of PXI modules and the corresponding LabView scripts).
• The teacher presented to each group of students the work to be done and the milestones and expected deliverables.
• The work of the students was initiated and the teacher supported and supervised its development, assessing the intermediate documents and deciding when to move on to the next phase of the workshop.
1. the technical work needed to set up a range of remote labs in various engineering degrees;
2. teacher training, to ensure appropriate perception and use of the technology;
3. pedagogical evaluation (knowledge and skills, learning processes, peer cooperation, teacher interaction), including the development of the methods and instruments to be used on field trials, data gathering, and analysis.
• Programmable Robot;
• Light bench (not really sufficient precision);
• Principals of flight;
• Newton's laws of motion;
• Measurement of g by falling/pendulum;
• Angles of refraction/refractive index.
1. knowledge and skills (e.g., acquisition of new knowledge; development of ICT skills, including Information and Communication Technologies; possible development of new alternatives/solutions);
2. learning process (e.g., understanding the theoretical concepts underlying the remote experiments and the cause/consequence relationship that explains a given result);
3. peer cooperation (assessing the importance, the existence, and the possibility of collaborative interaction among students);
4. teacher interaction (including items related to the importance of collaborative work between students and teacher and the availability of the latter).
• The forum provides a discussion area where students and teachers may discuss experiment procedures or results, clarify doubts, query each other, etc. A forum is one of the simplest collaborative activities within Moodle, yet few teachers will associate a forum to each experiment, and those that do so will frequently find the results disappointing for lack of interest from the students.
• A wiki is another example of a powerful collaborative activity supported by Moodle. Slightly more complex than a discussion forum, a wiki stores a shared document that can be modified by the authorized participants. All modifications are automatically registered, showing how the document evolved. If the experiment script asks the students to present a theory explaining the observed results, a wiki is an excellent choice for doing that work collaboratively, and enables the teacher to follow the participation of each group member. However, students will tend to ignore this activity, if they don't perceive a coherently integrated overall pedagogical strategy.
• offers the students access to specialized knowledge that may not exist within the university;
• represents an opportunity to work with sophisticated equipment that may be too expensive or too specific to exist in a university;
• improves employability of the students, by offering them skills that are directly relevant to companies, and enabling the company to assess and select the students;
• enables the companies to have a say concerning academic curricula and required student skills;
• offers the students a glimpse of their future professional life before they leave the university (organizational and cultural habits, time and activities management, etc.);
• last but not the least, remote labs at industry bridge the gaps with academia and facilitate the deployment of joint educational and research programs.
• access to expensive or safety critical equipment;
• access any time form anywhere to limited lab space and equipment;
• improved access for disabled students;
• integration into distance learning programs;
• sharing of lab facilities between institutions or across sites at an institution.
• M. Cooper is with the Accessible Educational Media (AEM) Group, Institute of Educational Technology (IET), Open University (OU), Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. E-mail: email@example.com.
• J.M.M. Ferreira is with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal, and the Buskerud College of Engineering, 3603 Kongsberg, Norway. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Manuscript received 31 Mar. 2009; revised 22 June 2009; accepted 6 Oct. 2009; published online 14 Oct. 2009.
For information on obtaining reprints of this article, please send e-mail to: email@example.com, and reference IEEECS Log Number TLTSI-2009-03-0067.
Digital Object Identifier no. 10.1109/TLT.2009.43.
1. See a list at http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/.
2. See http://moodle.org/.
3. This tool was acquired by IBM in February 2008 and is no longer available since that date.
Martyn Cooper received the BSc degree in cybernetics and control engineering with subsidiary mathematics from the University of Reading in UK. He has been a systems engineer for over 28 years, the last 18 working on enabling technology for people with disabilities and the last 11 of that particularly in access to education. Since 2001, he is a senior research fellow at the Open University (OU), where he is the head of the Accessible Educational Media (AEM) group in the Institute of Educational Technology (IET). He is currently responsible for accessibility issues across teaching and learning and infrastructure projects within the university as well as leading the groups externally funded research in this field. Since 1997, he has been periodically used as an independent expert, in this area, by the European Commission. He has participated in a range of learning technology standardization efforts intended to promote accessibility. This includes within IMS Global Learning Consortium, CEN-ISSS, and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. He is currently leading the metadata and standardization work within the large-scale EU IST project EU4ALL. This project is developing technical and service frameworks for accessible lifelong learning.
José M.M. Ferreira received the BS, MSc, and PhD degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Porto, Portugal, in 1982, 1987, and 1992, respectively. In 1982, he joined the University of Porto (FEUP), where he is currently an associate professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He also holds a position of professor II at the Buskerud College of Engineering, Kongsberg, Norway. His nonacademic experience includes Texas Instruments and Efacec, where he worked as a design engineer in the area of industrial electronics. He is the author of one book on digital hardware design, coauthor of approximately 100 papers, and served as a reviewer for several journals and conferences. His academic interests are related to research and education in digital hardware development and test, with an emphasis on e-learning and assessment of pedagogical effectiveness, where he participated in various national and international projects. He is responsible for the Teaching and Learning Laboratory of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto, which participates in various projects together with the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the same university.