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An Interactive Virtual Geotechnical Laboratory

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.169.1 - 6.169.10



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Paper Authors

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Muniram Budhu

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

Session 2793


Muniram Budhu, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering & Engineering Mechanics University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85721 Tel: (520) 621 2145, Fax: (520) 621 2550, e-mail:


The purpose of this paper is to present an interactive multimedia geotechnical laboratory courseware that is suitable for web-based instructions and/or delivery by a CD-ROM. The virtual laboratory courseware consists of a series of tests on soils that a student can conduct as if he/she were in a real laboratory. Each virtual test courseware provides background material and guides the student to conduct the test and to interpret the results. The courseware is intended to enhance learning and knowledge retention and includes testing prerequisite knowledge and quizzes to test retention. Students can explore test situations that cannot be accommodated within normal class or laboratory schedules. When a student accesses the courseware, a folder is created for that student and records of the student’s performance are stored in the folder. The folder can only be accessed by an instructor who can use the information to review certain course material that may not be understood by the students or modify the content of the course.


Geotechnical engineering, sometimes called soil mechanics or geomechanics, is a required undergraduate course in civil engineering. The course involves the integration of fundamental principles on the physical and mechanical behavior of soils and laboratory tests to determine soil parameters. The test results are used in formulae to design foundations for structures, embankments for dams and roads, tunnels, etc., and for use in analytical and numerical models. Some of the tests, e.g. consolidation test, require careful sample preparation and several days of recording readings and loading the soil sample. There is very little scope for exploration because these are destructive tests that require significant time commitment and real estate (lab) space.

How can we enhance laboratory experience and allow students the opportunity to explore? One way is to use modern communication technologies. Communication technologies have advanced to a stage where we can now significantly improve the transmission and retention of information. Such technologies include multimedia, chat room, web pages, email, conferencing and listservers. There is now a growing trend of using these newer technologies in the delivery of local and distance education. One of the shortcomings of distance learning for courses with laboratory components is the integration of “realistic or hands-on” laboratory exercises with text-based and graphics materials. Attempts (1-7) have been made to create virtual laboratories. These attempts vary in the degree of sophistication, instructional methodology and realism. In this contribution, the author describes the development and integration of virtual laboratory modules that (1) duplicate the real apparatus, (2) duplicate the real laboratory procedures, (3) provide guidance in conducting virtual tests, (4) provide guidance in interpreting the results, (5) provide opportunities for exploration, (6) provide testing and evaluation of knowledge retention, and (7) provide feedback to the students and instructors.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition

Budhu, M. (2001, June), An Interactive Virtual Geotechnical Laboratory Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9444

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