Developing Remote Labs for Challenged Educational Environments

Developing Remote Labs for Challenged Educational Environments

Lawrence Olakunle Kehinde (Texas Southern University, USA), Xuemin Chen (Texas Southern University, USA), Kayode P. Ayodele (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria) and Olawale B. Akinwale (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-186-3.ch022
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Most publications on online laboratories assume that all institutions have similar scenarios. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Many developing countries and disadvantaged colleges have challenges that hinder successful deployment of remote laboratories, whereas these challenges may not be applicable in more developed environments. In this chapter, we highlight these challenges and propose solutions. In doing this, we will draw from our experiences, garnered while developing labs in selected challenged environments.
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The rapid development of Internet technology and its increasing popularity has had an enormous impact on engineering. This technology provides new tools across the spectrum of engineering disciplines. Meanwhile, it also facilitates the development of additional teaching strategies, including vivid and interactive ways of illustration, simulation, demonstration, experimentation, operation, communication, and so on (Selmer et al., 2007). Broadband access and data compression allow for the delivery of audio and video streaming of lectures via the Internet. Nowadays, computer and Internet-based learning have become important parts of education. The 2009 Sloan Survey of Online Learning revealed that online learning enrollment rose by nearly 17 percent from the previous year. This survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide found that approximately 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in the Fall semester of 2008. (Allen & Seaman, 2010).

A particular challenge for online education in engineering is how to extend the traditional hands-on laboratory experience over the Internet. Since the earliest days of engineering education, hands-on laboratories have been an essential part of undergraduate engineering programs (Feisel & Rosa, 2005); concepts taught through lectures are often complemented with laboratory experiments. Hands-on education allows students to imbibe the core principles of engineering by conducting experiments, observing dynamic phenomena, testing hypotheses, learning from their mistakes, and reaching their own conclusions. With the rapid progress of the microprocessor and communication technologies, more and more instrumentation can be reconfigured and controlled remotely. These new functionalities have been making remote hands-on training via the Internet possible. New developments in the way lab exercises are performed include the simulation of the lab environment, automated data acquisition and the remote control of instruments, all of which can proceed online.

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