Online and distance learning courses have a great interest. About 58 million people have already enrolled in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) [1]. Several institutions also offer online courses with the aim of attracting international students [2]. Blended learning combines both online resources and traditional face-to-face activities.

We present a study performed at the Escuela Universitaria Politécnica de Teruel (EUPT), University of Zaragoza. The EUPT is planning to offer blended-learning courses for undergraduate students of Engineering on Electronics and Automation (GIEA). The goal is to make knowledge more accessible and better suited to the daily life of prospective students, which may be working, raising children, or living in other cities or countries.

Due to the high load of practical training, a major concern associated to blended-learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) undergraduate studies, relates to the way in which practical training is offered to students so that they acquire the required practical skills [3], [4].

In this paper, we make a study involving 13 core courses of the GIEA Engineering studies. We analysed the main available tools for practical training, including Virtual Laboratories (VL) built on Open Source and free programs, VLs accessible through virtual desktops, and practical training using the hardware available at the laboratories of the University. We propose solutions that combine several of the previous tools, and that allow students to pre-acquire practical experience along the course, and to complement their formation with face-to-face activities at our laboratories.

From the 13 courses studied, the practical training of three courses could be performed fully online. For six of the courses, we found simulation software that would allow for the use of VLs for 60% to 85% of the practical sessions. Finally, three courses required a high amount of practical sessions (100%, 65%, and 60%) to be performed physically at our laboratories.

In our paper, we give a detailed explanation of the findings about the analysed courses. We also list the specific tools and simulation software selected to support the blended-learning modality.

[1] R. Ubell, "MOOCs come back to earth (Resources Education)," in IEEE Spectrum, 54 (3): 22-22, 2017.
[2] T. R. Ortelt, S. Pekasch, K. Lensing, P. J. Gueno, D. May, A. E. Tekkaya, "Concepts of the international manufacturing remote lab (MINTReLab): Combination of a MOOC and a remote lab for a manufacturing technology online course", IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON), pp. 602-607, 2016.
[3] T. Jong, M. C. Linn, Z. C. Zacharia, “Physical and Virtual Laboratories in Science and Engineering Education”, SCIENCE, 340: 305–308, 2013.
[4] M. Koretsky, C. Kelly, E. Gummer, “Student Perceptions of Learning in the Laboratory: Comparison of Industrially Situated Virtual Laboratories to Capstone Physical Laboratories”, Journal of Engineering Education, 100 (3): 540–573, 2011.