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I. Tejado, I. González, E. Pérez, P. Merchán, B. Vinagre

University of Extremadura (SPAIN)
With the increased interest in the use of virtual laboratories (VLs) to support teaching in engineering (see e.g. [1] for their advantages for learning outcomes), one of the current challenge consists in introducing in these interactive tools the choice of automated grading so that faculty staff can reduce the amount of time devoted to correct the large number of exercises that are proposed to students for the evaluation of the different competences within the European Higher Education Area. This situation is even more complicated if one takes into account that enrollment in industrial engineering programs is increasing in the last years.

Strictly speaking, one of the main advantages of the VLs is that, through them, students can carry out an autonomous learning, that is, they acquire a greater responsibility and an active role in the teaching-learning process. Hence, it is evident that the automatic evaluation should be an inherent capability of the VLs to take advantage of all their benefits.

Several approaches have been reported in the literature to include automatic evaluation into virtual/remote labs (VRLs) in, for example, the fields of chemistry [2], electronics [3], and control systems [4]. However, from the authors’ viewpoint, deep programming skills are required in some cases to implement such solutions.

Given this context, in this paper we report the first steps developed in a pair of Easy Java/Javascript Simulations-based labs, namely, a level process control and a resistor-inductor-capacitor circuit, to enhance their utility for both teachers and students to perform automatic correction. To this aim, some code has been added to the labs so that the student will be able to check if his/her calculations are correct or not as follows. The student will write the result in a box created in the lab interface and press the check button; a text message will appear to inform him/her about the validity of the value but will not afford the correct one so the student has to repeat the calculation if necessary. With such a possibility, the student is envisioned to detect calculation fails as well as misconceptions related to the theoretical background. It should be noted that Easy Java/Javascript Simulations, also known as EjsS (and, formerly, EJS), is a freeware authoring tool [5] delivered with easy-to-use features in order to facilitate the design of VRLs for teachers without programming expertise.

[1] S. Dormido, “Control Learning: Present and Future,” Annual Reviews in Control, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 115–136, 2004.
[2] A. Muñoz, D. Muñoz, M.P. Godoy-Caballero, D. González-Gómez, F. Gómez-Estern, C. Sánchez, “Automatic evaluation and data generation for analytical chemistry instrumental analysis exercises,” Química Nova, vol. 37, no. 9, pp. 1550-1558, 2014.
[3] P. Fernández, A. Salaverría, J. González, E. Mandado, “El aprendizaje activo mediante la autoevaluación utilizando un laboratorio virtual,” Revista Iberoamericana de Tecnologías del Aprendizaje, vol. 4, pp. 53-62, 2009.
[4] G. Farias, D. Muñoz, F. Gómez-Estern, L. De la Torre, C. Sánchez, S. Dormido, “Adding automatic evaluation to interactive virtual labs,” Interactive Learning Environments, vol. 24, no. 7, pp.1456-1476, 2016.