Virtual labs are a key for the establishment of virtual universities of the future, says Prof (Dr) Sandeep Sancheti, President, Manipal University, Jaipur
How virtual labs are reinventing the pedagogy?
A large number of courses offered by professional institutions lack in terms of laboratory work and hands-on experience of a laboratory environment due to a variety of reasons. Even if such facilities are available, their efficacy is poor due to the quality of equipment, general instructions and readiness to challenge the standard conventions. Availability of virtual laboratories will bridge that important gap by providing access to quality laboratory experimentation with a feature of anytime, anywhere and by anyone. In my opinion, virtual labs are a key for the establishment of virtual universities of the future.
Innovation in virtual laboratories
Virtual laboratories are expected to provide complete and correct experimentation principles and details as they can always expose students to the involved aspects by videos, animations, demonstrations and support through scientific blogs. They can help induce a great deal of interest as well as confidence in the students in performing experiments independently. Virtual labs can also make students undertake quiz tests or Q&A sessions before they are allowed to perform the experiment virtually. Such a step is very essential to check the pre-requisite knowledge and preparedness of a student.
Finally, in parallel to experimentation, the learning can be fully supported through linked CAD tools, supported on a remote server to perform related simulations and make exercise complete in all respects, which one can refer as 360-degree learning.
Benefits to students and teachers
It can be a very safe and secure learning environment which can operate on a 24×7 basis. The student can perform exercises without fear as built-in checks and balance can be implemented through interfacing and controlling software. Online and real-time help can be made available through variety of interventions and general IT-based tools.
All these aspects can be attained at a very low cost with better clarity and learning experience to the potential learner.
Learning outcomes and evaluation
Since virtual mode can be a self-regulated mode, students can be allowed to perform higher levels of experimentation based on the performances attained. Hence, it can satisfy the learning appetite of student in a much better way. Similarly, as access to costly and well-calibrated equipment is generally very limited in the current scenario, the same can also be easily taken care of through virtual experimentation. As far as evaluation is concerned, the online process can easily record every step performed or omitted by the candidate and hence, it can be conforming to a more rigorous as well as uniform evaluation. However, a lot of work needs to be undertaken for proper development of online evaluation processes for laboratory examinations.