Improving the remote laboratory experience through augmented characteristics beyond the experiment coreDirected by: Javier García-Zubia Co-advisor: Pablo Orduña
Educational remote laboratory technologies allow students to access distant equipment, through the Internet. They can experiment and learn in a way that resembles the traditional hands-on laboratories of any educative institution. This not only provides convenience. Through remote laboratories, institutions can reduce their costs and expand their educational offer. They can share resources and reduce underusing of their laboratories. But not everything are advantages. The laboratory experience is different. A common topic in the literature is the comparison among hands-on, remote and virtual laboratories, and their effectiveness. Although there is no definite answer, results suggest that all of them, when properly designed and implemented, can provide satisfactory results. The value they give is, presumably, the sum of the different components that comprise their educative experience: the laboratory itself, the interaction between the students and the equipment, the guidance that teachers provide, and other characteristics. The goal of this dissertation is to improve the remote laboratory experience, adding value and leveraging advances in different fields to improve the aforementioned characteristics. For this, it adopts a three-pronged approach.
The first part of this thesis improves the quality of the interaction between users and remote laboratories, so that it can be closer to that of a real hands-on laboratory. A webcam is the window through which students interact with the equipment. Thus, this work analyzes the different interactive live-streaming approaches that are available, and designs and implements an architecture to satisfy the requirements effectively.
The second part of this thesis improves the guidance that students receive. In a traditional hands-on laboratory students benefit from the physical presence of the teacher. In a remote laboratory, only remote assistance can be provided. This work proposes and develops a new model of customizable tutoring agents that can be customized by teachers through a visual language. Through this, they can augment that guidance.
The third part of this thesis aims not to match, but rather to augment a remote laboratory beyond the limitations of a traditional hands-on one. One of the traditional advantages of virtual laboratories (simulations) is that they can simulate those realities that are not possible in a conventional hands-on laboratory, due to practical, financial or security reasons. This works explores the hybrid laboratory model: remote laboratories that leverage not only real, but also, virtual components.
This three-pronged approach aims to advance the state of the art towards new generations and models of online laboratories, that can not only match conventional hands-on laboratories, but surpass them.