With the rapid advancement of technology, remote labs have emerged as a promising alternative to traditional in-person labs in engineering education. They allow engineering students to perform experiments and simulations from anywhere with an internet connection.
According to Harisinh Parmar, an EIT lab coordinator, and lecturer, the institute has introduced remote labs into engineering education since its inception. He said the aim was to provide enhanced practical exposure to online students via the Electromeet platform.
One of the primary benefits of using remote labs is that they offer greater flexibility and accessibility for students. Unlike in-person labs, which are often limited in space and equipment, students can access remote labs wherever and whenever.
“Our online students use software tools and simulated practicals via this [Electromeet] platform. We offer remote labs where our students can work with actual equipment and operate and perform experiments,” said Parmar. He also highlighted that EIT’s remote and virtual labs provide innovative, practical experiences to all students.
Ultimately, this makes it easier for students to fit lab work into their schedules and to work at their own pace. Additionally, remote labs often provide access to advanced equipment and software that might not be available at a student's home location, allowing them to learn and experiment with cutting-edge technology.
Remote and virtual labs have also proved very important for EIT to impart learning outcomes for their engineering students to be job-ready for the relevant industries.
Parmar stressed that engineering education is only considered complete by providing practical exposure to students. “We strive to provide engineering education online, and the remote lab is integral to this mission.”
He said the Electromeet platform provides the bridge for an online engineering course to make a similar impact and understand practical concepts on engineering graduates regardless of their learning mode.
Another advantage of remote labs is that they can be more cost-effective than traditional in-person labs. Building and maintaining physical labs can be expensive, requiring significant equipment, supplies, and infrastructure investments.
Remote labs, on the other hand, can be accessed through a web browser, eliminating the need for expensive physical infrastructure. This can cause significant cost savings for educational institutions, which can be passed on to students as lower tuition or fees.
Remote labs and virtual labs are open to being accessible by all EIT students. After logging into the Moodle page, they can access labs via EIT’s state-of-the-art Electromeet platform, which directs them to the Electromeet platform.
“Our experienced lecturers provide a demo of the software tools and/or simulated experiment used in the industry. They design a dedicated assessment based on this tool and/or experiment to assess students on this exercise,” noted Parmar. He also pointed out that students must book and access remote labs to complete this assessment and submit relevant file/s for review.
For all the benefits of remote labs, there are some challenges associated with using remote labs for engineering education. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring students have access to the equipment and software they need to participate in remote labs.
This can be challenging for students who need high-speed internet access or live in areas with limited technological infrastructure. Additionally, there can be data security and privacy issues when working with remote labs, as students are often required to share sensitive information over the internet.
Meanwhile, EIT student is clearly faring well in this regard and have offered constructive feedback on remote labs in the QUILT survey and have even requested that more practicals get added to the courses.
“All our students appreciate the remote labs for their practical learning and for providing them opportunities to experience one of its kind experiences to operate the equipment remotely and perform experiments,” said Parmar.
Despite the challenges mentioned above, remote labs are quickly becoming an essential tool for engineering education, and there are many exciting developments in this field.
One area of innovation is using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to enhance the remote lab experience. Using VR or AR technology, students can immerse themselves in a simulated lab environment, allowing them to interact with virtual equipment and perform experiments engagingly and realistically.
Another area of innovation is using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the capabilities of remote labs. Using AI algorithms, remote labs can be programmed to adapt to each student's needs and preferences, providing personalized learning experiences and feedback. This can help students to develop a deeper understanding of engineering concepts and to improve their problem-solving skills.
Touching on recent advancements in this area, Parmar agreed it is an inspiring time to use the latest technologies to minimize the gap between physical, practical, and virtual learning.
“Online engineering education space will become exciting with the utilization of AR, VR, and XR [extended reality]. We consider all the above technologies the future of online education. One can use these technologies to provide practical and simulated environment experience,” he said.
In conclusion, remote labs are a valuable and innovative tool for engineering education, offering students greater flexibility, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness than traditional in-person labs. As technology develops, remote labs will likely become an even more critical part of the engineering education landscape, providing students with the skills and experiences they need to succeed in the fast-paced engineering world.
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