Virtual and Remote Laboratories
It is commonly accepted that digital media (such as simulations, videos, interactive screen experiments or web labs) can positively impact student knowledge, skills and attitudes. Consequently, tools such as Moodle and web-based labs have become widespread in distance education in the last decade. Moodle supports the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events. Web-based labs make possible to illustrate scientific phenomena that require costly or difficult-to-assemble equipment.
There are two complementary approaches for web-based labs:
- Virtual Labs or Experiments provide computer based simulations which offer similar views and ways of work to their traditional counterparts. Nowadays, simulations have evolved into interactive graphical user interfaces where students can manipulate the experiment parameters and explore its evolution.
- Remote Labs or Experiments use real plants and physical devices which are teleoperated in real time.
Easy Java(script) Simulations (EJS, http://www.um.es/fem/EjsWiki/pmwiki.php) is a tool designed for the creation of discrete computer simulations. During the last few years, EJS has grown for helping to create web-accessible labs in education of scientific and technical disciplines. With this objective in mind, recent releases of EJS support connections with external applications, such as LabView and Matlab/Simulink. Hence, EJS not only is useful to create virtual labs, but also the GUIs of their remote counterparts.
A rich repository of EJS simulations is freely available at: http://www.compadre.org/
EJSApp: bridging together Moodle and EJS
To support the one-click deployment of virtual and remote labs into Moodle, we have developed the EJSApp plugin, which has the following features:
- Deployment of labs written in EJS.
- Control user access to the deployed labs and distinguish between virtual labs (or simulations) and remote labs.
- Allow several resizing options for displaying the embedded applets.
- Backup and restore. EJSApp provides maintenance facilities for labs, packaging them into Moodle course backups.
To get the feel of EJSApp, visit UNILabs, which is a moodle site that hosts a rich network of virtual and remote labs for students of the Spanish Open University (UNED) and other Spanish Universities, such as the Huelva, Complutense and Almeria Universities. All labs in UNILabs have been developed using the EJSApp and its extensions (EJSApp "private files" browser, EJSApp Booking System, EJSApp Collab Session and the Open Source Physics repository plugin).
The code repository of this plugin can be found at https://github.com/UNEDLabs/moodle-mod_ejsapp
- Luis de la Torre, Ruben Heradio, Carlos A. Jara, Jose Sanchez, Sebastian Dormido, Fernando Torres, Francisco A. Candelas. Providing Collaborative Support to Virtual and Remote Laboratories. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 6(4): 312-323, 2013.
- Luis de la Torre, Juan P. Sanchez, Ruben Heradio, Carmen Carreras, Manuel Yuste, Jose Sanchez, Sebastian Dormido. Creating web experimentation portals. International Conference on Interactive Computer aided Blended Learning, 2013, Florianópolis, Brasil.
- Ruben Heradio, Luis de la Torre, Jose Sanchez, Sebastian Dormido and Hector Vargas. An architecture for virtual and remote laboratories to support distance learning. In Research in Engineering Education Symposium, pages 579-587, Madrid, Spain, October 2011.
Overview of EJSApp
Guide to install and use EJSApp and EJSApp File Browser
Overview of Open Source Physics, a free repository with more than 400 freely available EJS simulations
Overview of UNEDLabs, a network of virtual and remote laboratories developed with EJSApp