June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.150.1 - 12.150.16
Introduction Educational techniques integrating new technologies are rapidly becoming a necessity to mitigate the rising cost of higher education. Distance learning has become a hallmark example of technology that benefits educational institutions by improving the accessibility of modern experimental tools. Our goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of creating modular, interactive, and inexpensive remote-controlled experimental test beds for use in laboratory-based courses. By examining all the facets of the process, it is our hope to provide a recipe for successful deployment of online courses with a basis, not in lecture material, but in real experimentation. We will discuss the benefits of distance learning, address concerns about its educational value, provide real solutions to common problems, and present assessment data that indicates where more work should be done to broaden the scope of this new educational technique.
1.0 - Distance Education Limitations on equipment access and funding reduce the availability of advanced technologies to certain institutions . Distance learning helps alleviate this problem by increasing access and reducing cost. If both objectives can be met without educational determent then distance learning will be a clear alternative for 21st century educators.
The fundamental principle of distance learning is straightforward: as internet access becomes more widespread, multiple students may be connected to single pieces of expensive equipment. Educational institutions struggle to allocate sufficient funding for educational laboratory space and equipment [2,3]. Allowing remote access to equipment removes restrictions such as class size and physical distance. This in turn opens the benefits of a laboratory-based education to more people. Such access can also promote equipment sharing between separate institutions. Smaller universities are able to share equipment with larger institutions and reap similar educational benefits . Hi-tech companies, such as Cisco and Linksys, also use this remote learning technology to educate their employees and technicians on new equipment . With these facts in mind, distance education should clearly take a stronger role in technical education.
1. 1 - Student Learning Despite the benefits of remote experimentation, the issue of real student learning is one that must be addressed. In particular, standard laboratory courses emphasize “hands-on” experience and improve student confidence by simulating real-world applications. Laboratory courses are often conducted in coordination with a lecture course with the intent to give students opportunities to implement or practice what they have learned. Ma and Nickerson  present compelling evidence that the physical act of manipulating equipment is not what induces student learning. Their article examines a large collection of academic publications on the topic of remote learning vs. more standard, hands-on practices. The result of their analysis states:
The general consensus of these comparison studies, with the exception of Engum et al., is that there is no significant and consistent difference between hands- on, simulated, and remote laboratories as measured by the results of lab reports or testing. 
Waskiewicz, A., & Gurkan, D., & Taeb, I., & Benhaddou, D., & Barnes, F., & Mickelson, A. (2007, June), A Two Credit Hour Stand Alone Remote Optics Laboratory Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2933
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