Web-Based Remote Experimentation
C. C. Ko (National University of Singapore, Singapore), Ben M. Chen (National University of Singapore, Singapore) and C. D. Cheng (CCS Automation Pte Ltd, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2009
From the angle of computer based education, the Internet extends the power of personal computers (PC) from being a standalone machine to one that is connected to the world with uncountable resources. Applications such as library access, information search, educational material download, on-line tutorials and even examinations can now be routinely carried out by a low cost PC with Internet connection at any time from practically everywhere. Most applications are however software oriented and do not involve experimentation through remote access to physical hardware or equipment. While it is natural and easier for more flexible software to establish links and communicate with each other, these setups do provide a good learning experience in many situations. However, as pointed out by Antsaklis at al (1999), it is commonly recognized that effective and complete learning, especially in engineering and science, requires a mixture of theoretical and practical sessions. In particular, to appreciate and use theoretical knowledge to solve real world problems, practical exercises are indispensable.
Developed within the midst of universities and government agencies, the Internet has been used for a variety of purposes in education. It serves as a convenience multimedia communication channel between teachers and students, scholars and research centers, and has hosted many new, immersing and innovative ways to enhance learning and expand educational opportunities. Distant education and non-traditional classrooms can reach more students with specialized instruction and self-paced learning, while student projects, virtual field trips and online journals may complement available local resources.
In general, the Internet can be used for education in the following manners:
• Delivering content from a course web site where various teaching materials and course management functions are hosted.
• Delivering programs where multimedia animation or simulation is provided to replace physical experiments.
• Providing access to a Web-based laboratory that enables students to set up parameters and undertake experiments from a remote location.
This is the simplest and most common way in which the Web is used for education. In fact, most universities in the world have systems that utilize the Internet as a general communication tool and aid for material download and general learning.
In particular, Simione (1997) presented a user-centered web page construction and maintenance model to develop web-based course materials, while Pascoe (1997) developed several methods, including interactive exercises, course note annotation and automatic tailored feedback, to enable students to interact with the course site to enhance learning. Rosenblum (1996) described some web-based collaborative learning communication tools through a CGI program that provides instructors with private course discussion areas. With an intuitive chat interface, these areas allow the instructors to give students a platform-independent ability to communicate in as many groups as is needed by the class.
Recently, Tartaglia et al (2002) explored a web-based evaluation system for technical education, while Ko et al (2004) designed and developed a secured web-based test system where a camera at the client computer is used to capture and deliver images of the student’s face and postures at random intervals during the assessment. This scheme overcomes the hurdle of verifying the identity of the student by using just a simple user id and password.
Key Terms in this Chapter
3D Instruments: 3-dimensional virtual instruments which are developed using 3D visualization tools. Internet Remote Experimentation: The use of the Internet to carry out physical experimental work at a remote location.
Online Experiment: An experiment that is running and controlled by a computer terminal.
Virtual Laboratory: A computer accessible laboratory which may be simulated by running a software package or which may involve real remote experimentation.
Web-Based Control: The control of instruments or apparatus through the Internet.
Remote Access: The ability to control instruments or systems and retrieve relevant information at a distance.
Web-Based Laboratory: A laboratory that typically involves physical experiments and that can be accessed remotely through the use of the Internet.