Sunday, October 14, 2007

Remote labs: The next high-tech step beyond simulation for distance education

Hamza, M. K., Alhalabi, B., Hsu, S., Larrondo-Petrie, M. M., & Marcovitz, D. M. (2002). Remote labs: The next high-tech step beyond simulation for distance education. Computers in the schools, 19 (3-4), 171-190.

The authors believe that while simulations have a significant place in distance education, they can hardly replace the need for real laboratory experiences, which tend to simulate and intensify all types of learning skills in students. The lack of real response of real physical elements to real inputs suggests that simulation software should be used for a limited set of experiments. In situations when real labs are not as appropriate or effective, however, simulations provide substantial assistance. Simulations are appropriate for teaching in a controlled environment, such as teaching theoretical concepts, confronting students with their misconceptions, and teaching students with limited metacognitive skills. When the concepts accentuate theory, a well-designed simulation package will meet instructional objectives. However, educators need to be aware of the following drawbacks when implementing simulations in classrooms: the design of a simulation depends largely on the student’s perception as anticipated by the designer; simulation software at its best might only produce an approximation that can yield erroneous results; the results of experiments conducted through simulation software must be programmed for use within the scope of distance learning parameters; the thrill of spontaneity from autonomous experimentation vanishes; and the excitement and interest that accompany remote lab experimentation may be absent. I should take into account those factors during the project design.

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