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Survey of Existing Remote Laboratories used to Conduct Laboratory Exercises for Distance Learning Courses

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Distance Learning and Online Teaching Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1119.1 - 23.1119.12



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Paper Authors


Thomas Fallon Southern Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Fallon has been a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology department of Southern Polytechnic State University since the fall of 1996. He earned his a BSEE (1986) and MSEE (1995) from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his PhD (2003) from Georgia State University. He currently serves as coordinator of the Telecommunications Engineering Technology degree program.

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Survey of Technologies and Techniques used to Conduct Laboratory Exercises for Distance Learning CoursesBy an ever increasing percentage, college and graduate courses are being offered online viadistance learning. Several of these courses have a laboratory component that requires the useof hardware and/or software, which present potential technical, licensing, and other problemswhen operated remotely. Such problems are generally related to the nature, format, andgeographical reach of the course. For instance, courses with a reasonably small geographicreach can be designed with the requirement that online students fulfill a partial residency,such as attendance at weekend labs conducted at the host school.Online courses that require the use of software only are generally free of the constraints ofdistance except in the cases where centralized applications are used or expensive licensecosts are incurred. Several software applications suitable for educational purposes areavailable as freeware or at a modest cost (student license). Centralized applications, such asexpensive simulation programs or collaborative server systems, require remote access, whichmight be thwarted by issues such as campus security policies or site license restrictions.Distance learning-based laboratory exercises that are primarily hardware based require eitherphysical or virtual access to the equipment and support components. Such access can berealized in one of several ways: the purchase of a lab kit, remote Internet access via a VirtualPrivate Network (VPN), or the creation of strategically located remote learning centers.Depending upon the parts and devices required, parts kits can be designed, assembled, anddistributed via the host school or via a 3rd party provider. Use of a VPN enables remotestudents to directly access software and/or hardware systems that are physically located onthe host campus’ local area network via modern communication protocols; many hardwaredevices can be remotely accessed and controlled via the TCP/IP protocol. Remote learningcenters can be equipped with the various hardware, software, and pedagogical requirementsof distance learning. However, such centers can be expensive to properly build and staff.Strategic partnerships with other host schools could provide yet another viable option.The purpose of this survey is to gather, present, and discuss several of the currenttechnologies and techniques being used to conduct laboratory exercises for various onlinecourse formats. Potential advantages and disadvantages are highlighted in order to illustratethe challenges and benefits of establishing and supporting remote laboratories for onlinecourses.

Fallon, T. (2013, June), Survey of Existing Remote Laboratories used to Conduct Laboratory Exercises for Distance Learning Courses Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22504

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