Experiences with a Hybrid Architecture for Remote Laboratories

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Conference Proceeding
FiE 2008: The 38th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, 2008, pp. 15 - 19
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There is growing interest in the use of remote laboratories to access physical laboratory infrastructure. These laboratories can support additional practical components in courses, provide improved access at reduced cost, and encourage sharing of expensive resources. Effective design of remote laboratories requires attention to both the pedagogic design and the technical support, as well as how these elements interact. We discuss our experiences with a remote laboratory implementation based on a hybrid architecture. This architecture utilises a Web front-end allowing student access to an arbitration system, which permits students to select one of a number of experiments, before being allocated to a particular experimental station. The interaction with the equipment then occurs through a separate stand-alone application which runs on its own virtualized server which the user accesses via a remote desktop client. This hybrid architecture has many benefits, as well as some limitations. For example, it allows rich control and monitoring interfaces to be developed, but also requires students to understand a slightly more complex process for establishing the control. We discuss the reactions to this architecture by different cohorts of students as well as the extent to which the architecture facilitates evolution and expansion of the laboratories.
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