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A Web Based Virtual Laboratory For Water Resources Engineering Education

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Laboratory Development and Technology in the Civil Engineering Classroom

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.146.1 - 14.146.11



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Paper Authors

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Steven Burian University of Utah

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Alfred Kalyanapu University of Utah

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Dasch Houdeshel University of Utah

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David Judi University of Utah

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Christine Pomeroy University of Utah

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Web-Based Virtual Laboratory for Water Resources Engineering Education


This paper describes a virtual laboratory website used in water resources engineering courses at the University of Utah. The prototype virtual lab provides access via the Internet to digital video, visualization, an interactive calculator, and a written summary of key lab points. The content available for review is delivered and additional web links are provided to create a bridge from the lab experiment to classroom examples and professional practice. Movies have been created for eight laboratory sessions in an undergraduate Hydraulics course and one session of a graduate Open Channel Flow course. Animated visualizations have been created for two laboratory sessions in the Hydraulics course. A complete virtual lab website has been developed for one lab session of the Hydraulics course. The effectiveness of the content and delivery methods employed was assessed using a quiz and student surveys. The quiz results suggest students given access to the virtual lab components were able to recall key concepts better than those not having access. Feedback through surveys highlighted the benefits of the virtual lab and indicated an area of need relating lab content to classroom examples and professional practice.


Traditional experimental-based learning is constrained by several factors. Laboratory resources are expensive, space is limited, and lab sessions often conflict with other student commitments (e.g., courses, work, personal). In addition, traditional on-site laboratory experiments have a short-term exposure. After leaving a traditional lab, students may not be able to easily recall equipment, procedures, or key observations. And it is impossible to review and repeat experimental procedures to investigate concepts. Virtual laboratory environments provide the opportunity for asynchronous, on demand, and repetitive interaction, which may be a potential solution to these challenges, especially during tough economic when resources for traditional lab improvement are at a premium or nonexistent.

Numerous approaches to create a virtual laboratory environment have been introduced in engineering education by (1) permitting lab experiments to be performed remotely6, (2) providing time flexible lab experiences, (3) providing capture of lab content for later recall, and (4) creating opportunities for lab experiences for impaired students. There have been virtual laboratories created using 3D rendering technologies1,5, Java3 and other web-based programming languages, live video, web services4, integrated digital camera and LabView6, and multi-media8.

In civil engineering education, virtual laboratory environments have been developed to serve the geotechnical2,7, structural, earthquake engineering (, and materials4,5 sub-disciplines. The initial literature search uncovered no instances of the use of virtual laboratories focused on water resources engineering.

The literature review and our experience suggest there is also a need to create a better linkage among laboratory concepts, classroom content, and professional practice. For example, end of

Burian, S., & Kalyanapu, A., & Houdeshel, D., & Judi, D., & Pomeroy, C. (2009, June), A Web Based Virtual Laboratory For Water Resources Engineering Education Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5359

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