CONFRONTING THE ADVISABILITY OF IMPLEMENTING VIRTUAL LABS FOR ONLINE TEACHING OF PRACTICAL SKILLS: A SPECIAL CASE IN AN OPTICS LAB
1 Universitat Jaume I (SPAIN)
2 Universitat de València (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:In the sciences, the standard vehicle for teaching practical skills is the laboratory course, where the students have the opportunity to engage with real lab equipment, to analyze authentic data, to experience the excitement of observation and to reinforce the curiosity and intuition. Bringing such experiences online is tricky, but new and rapidly evolving education-technology tools make possible now to do problem-focused learning way better. A huge body of evidence suggests that a completely virtual lab can never fully replace time at the bench; it must be used as a supplementary aid.
That is why we created a Java physics applet to study some properties of light using a geometrical triangular prism. The user can control different materials for the prism as well as its apex angle and the change of the wavelength of the incident light beam. And, for example, with the incident light beam adjusted such that the refracted beam is at minimum deviation, the refractive index can then be computed using the apex angle and the angle of minimum deviation. It is important to notice that such a virtual lab is heavily influenced by the philosophy of enquiry-based learning which puts students to work in teams, challenges them with a question and lets them struggle to find their own answer in a collaborative way.
We have also considered very important to open the source code of our virtual lab to interested users, in order to widespread adoption of virtual labs and try to avoid that so many are one-off experiments which are simply stored in obscure websites where almost nobody can find them.