Building an Ecology of Online Laboratories


In this catalytic project, the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is partnering with the Spanish University of Distance Education (UNED) and the University of Deusto, Spain. The first goal is the expansion and integration of MIT?s iLabs Shared Architecture (ISA) with an open source learning management system (LMS) using SCORM standards. The coupling of online labs with LMSs will allow a particular experiment to be customized for multiple educational environments and for the learning objectives of the lab experience to be carefully tracked and evaluated. The second goal is to develop a specification for interoperability between two remote lab architectures (ISA & WebLab-Deusto) and create a plan for infrastructure changes to both architectures to enable interoperability and develop a proof of concept implementation. The increased interoperability between different online lab architectures and learning management systems will both lead to an increasing scalable ecology of online labs. Online laboratories in general have the potential to transform STEM education by enabling students to actively participate in global collaborations through access to unique and exciting laboratories. They enable new communities of researchers and students to explore phenomena, and jointly engage in scientific inquiry with world-wide partners. This project contributes by: 1) creating an interoperability specification that details the requirements to enable the sharing of online laboratory across architectures and will drastically increase the number of labs available; 2) creation of a shared global resource of online labs and sharable curricular materials that students have access to in the course of their academic careers; and 3) engaging students in unique and exciting scientific experiments that will hopefully capture their interest in science and engineering fields.