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Leveraging Online Lab Development: A New Paradigm to Offer Educational Lab Infrastructure as a Cloud Service

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Emerging Computing and Information Technologies I

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Danilo Garbi Zutin Carinthia University of Applied Sciences

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Danilo G. Zutin is currently a Senior Researcher and team member of the Center of Competence in Online Laboratories and Open Learning (CCOL) at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences (CUAS), Villach, Austria, where he has been engaged in projects for the development of online laboratories, softtware architectures for online laboratories and online engineering in general.
Danilo is author or co-author of more than 30 scientific papers published in international journals, magazines and conferences. Most of these papers are in the field of online engineering, remote and virtual laboratories and issues associated with their dissemination and usage.

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Michael E. Auer Carinthia University of Applied Sciences

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Dr. (mult.) Michael E. Auer is Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering and IT of the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences Villach, Austria and has also a teaching position at the University of Klagenfurt.
He is a senior member of IEEE and member of ASEE, IGIP, etc., author or co-author of more than 170 publications and leading member of numerous national and international organizations in the field of Online Technologies. His current research is directed to technology enhanced learning and remote working environments especially in engineering.
Michael Auer is Founding-President and CEO of the "International Association of Online Engineering" (IAOE) since 2006, a non-governmental organization that promotes the vision of new engineering working environments worldwide.
In 2009 he was appointed as member of the Advisory Board of the European Learning Industry Group (ELIG). Furthermore he is chair of the Advisory Board of the International E-Learning Association (IELA) and member of the Board of Consultants of the International Centre for Innovation in Education (ICIE).
In September 2010 he was elected as President of the "International Society of Engineering Education" (IGIP,
Furthermore he is one of the founders and Secretary General of the "Global Online Laboratory Consortium" (GOLC). GOLC is the result of an initiative started in 2009 at MIT to coordinate the work on educational online laboratories worldwide.

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As pointed out by many authors, the Internet changed the way distance education has been carried out. The enhanced delivery of educational services through technological innovations and socio-economic factors, like the need for part-time study programs and continuing education have completely redefined the physical and temporal boundaries that education and laboratory experimentation have been subjected to. This new scenario placed online laboratories as part of a much larger picture with the potential to deliver education at any time and place, not only to students who could not not come to the campus, but also as a tool that could potentially enhance laboratory experience of on-campus students as well.

However, developing an online laboratory from scratch can still be an arduous task, especially if the developer is a specialist in the laboratory domain and not a software engineer. Bringing a piece of equipment online requires high technical, and administrative efforts to ensure a secure setup and continuous maintenance of the system. For example, one should ensure proper ICT infrastructure, proper system security, intensely collaborate with institution’s IT department, among others.

In this work we propose a new paradigm to deliver laboratory server infrastructure as a service (LIaaS). The main difference if compared with other traditional LaaS (laboratory as a service) paradigms concerns the service consumers. Traditional LaaS usually focuses in creating and enabling services for end users of the online laboratory (students, teachers), but a laboratory server infrastructure as a service (proposed with this work) offers services to be consumed by laboratory owners and developers aiming to facilitate its development and deployment.

The core concept proposes moving typical and common functionalities of online laboratory servers to the cloud, allowing for its seamless reuse by heterogeneous online laboratories. Furthermore, it introduces an overlay network to transport experiment data over HTTP that allows lab owners to easily deploy online laboratories anywhere, surpassing NAT, firewalls, proxy servers and therefore minimizing the requirements at their end. In this way, we abstract the development of the software necessary to deliver remote experimentation by offering a simple set of services and a user interface for configuration (dashboard) to laboratory developers. It uses a publish and subscribe message exchange pattern where laboratory equipment (called execution engines) can subscribe for the processing of requests originated from an specific online laboratory server and its associated clients. Additionally, this approach introduces an inherent support for load balancing if two or more installations of the same laboratory equipment subscribe for the same laboratory server.

Abstracting these tasks allows laboratory developers to focus on what they do best: The experiment domain logic and the pedagogical aspects involved in bringing students the best online lab experience.

Garbi Zutin, D., & Auer, M. E. (2016, June), Leveraging Online Lab Development: A New Paradigm to Offer Educational Lab Infrastructure as a Cloud Service Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25565

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