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Realistic Looking Interfaces: In Search Of The Best Ergonomic Metaphors For Remote And Virtual Laboratory Interfaces

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Web-Based Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1025.1 - 13.1025.13



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Paper Authors

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David Olowokere University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Kayode P. Ayodele Obafemi Awolowo University

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Olutola Jonah

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Temitope O. Ajayi Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

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O.O. Akinwunmi Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

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Realistic Looking Interfaces: in Search of the Best Ergonomic Metaphors for Remote and Virtual Laboratory Interfaces.

Abstract In the last few years, remote and virtual laboratories have emerged as viable complements to traditional or legacy laboratories in fulfilling the experimentation component of engineering curricula. In fact, as we argue in this paper, remote and virtual laboratories have the potential to replace many legacy labs if the proper interface paradigms are identified. In this paper, we present the Realistic Looking Interface, which is a type of interface that focuses on the use of a metaphor that the student can more intuitively relate to a real-life laboratory. In essence, a student interacts with the laboratory using a point-and-click mechanism to manipulate graphical objects that have a one-to-one mapping to the real hardware backend. We present two implementation of a Realistic Looking Interface, one using a Java 3D space as a medium, and the other using 2D based flash vector representation. We show that in both cases, students psychologically relate the remote and virtual laboratories to real life ones and demonstrate a higher level of satisfaction with the experimentation process. We conclude that development and evolution of Realistic Looking Interfaces will allow virtual laboratories to eventually replace a large percentage of legacy laboratories.

I. Introduction:

Interest in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) -based alternatives to traditional laboratory experimentation systems has spiked in recent years. Of particular interest have been remote and virtual laboratories (RVL), which are systems where the Internet is used as a medium to allow users access remote laboratory hardware or software resources. RVLs are broadly classified under two categories: remote laboratories and virtual laboratories. Remote laboratories are systems whereby users are given access to real hardware backends located at a remote site. Virtual laboratories are RVL systems whose backend systems under test are implemented in software.

Various implementations of RVL have been described 1-9 and advantages ascribed to them have included ease of use, reduced safety concerns, scalability, availability, and minimal staffing requirement9. The various reported implementations have also demonstrated that RVLs can achieve, to a large extent, the thirteen objectives of experimentation in engineering education reported by Feisel and Peterson10. If RVLs have all those advantages over real labs and are able to impart the same experimentation skills to the same level in students, then one would expect that RVLs would be considered as valid replacements for real labs, rather than novel oddities that are deployed only in the absence of the real thing. In practice however, adoption of RVLs to date has been poor.

In this paper, we explore various issues relating to the ability of RVL to supplant real labs, and hypothesize that poor interface design is emerging as the most important limiting factor. We then

Olowokere, D., & Ayodele, K. P., & Jonah, O., & Ajayi, T. O., & Akinwunmi, O. (2008, June), Realistic Looking Interfaces: In Search Of The Best Ergonomic Metaphors For Remote And Virtual Laboratory Interfaces Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3791

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