A Remote-Access Laboratory for Collaborative Learning

B. Hanson, P. Culmer, J. Gallagher, K. Page, E. Read, A. Weightman, and M. Levesley (UK)


Web-labs, Remote, Distance, Engineering, ReLOAD


We present an example of a remote-access laboratory comprising real experimental apparatus, accessed remotely via the internet. The experiment, in Mechanical Engineering, involves analysing the performance of a servo-motor and was designed to be particularly suitable for remote access. Students were provided with individualised experimental parameters to minimise plagiarism. However, they were also able to choose their working environment and work in the presence of peers or individually. They were able to access the experiment repeatedly as required. Automated submission and grading of students’ results provided immediate, quantified, formative feedback. The experimental design allowed students’ results to be combined to generate a collaborative, emergent result giving a full frequency response analysis of the servo motor. This outcome could not have been achieved with a traditional lab access mode. Students were furthermore able to assess their performance against their peers, and learn from their own mistakes and those of others, with anonymity. Remote labs have supporters and detractors; we argue that when used appropriately they have a valid place in the curriculum, and have demonstrated unique advantages over traditional lab access methods.

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