Traversing the Digital Divide

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Traversing the Digital Divide

Virtual laboratories are the solution to Indian classrooms’ challenge of lack of faculty and new solutions that improve learning outcomes, writes Ruhi Ahuja Dhingra, ENN

Ever thought how easy teaching and learning Science could be if students thought the way scientists do, or if they could control something from even the secluded areas of the country?

The digital revolution dates back to the invention of the transistor in the year 1947. Today, it has traveled far beyond. A large number of institutions in the country, especially those in backward areas, are unable to offer a real laboratory experience to students. However, a lot of institutions that have these facilities follow the conventional method of teaching and lack in terms of the quality of equipment. Virtual laboratories or online laboratories or iLabs are here to build a connect. These labs allow a student sitting in any part of the country to do an experiment from anywhere, at anytime, and at any pace using the Internet. Even though virtual labs do not provide hands-on experience to the students, they eliminate the need to sit in a physical classroom and take a lecture to understand a concept, or visit a real laboratory to perform an experiment. Apart from this, these labs also minimise the costs incurred in performing experiments in real labs and enable students to hone their critical thinking skills and repeat the experiments till they feel they have understood a concept fully.

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Experimenting for a well-rounded experience• Though not a real lab, a virtual lab gives the freedom to a student to perform an experiment and apply scientific methods without the fear of getting it right
• Virtual labs ensure easily accessible and quality education to the students that they can take up at a time of their convenience
• Using remote experimentation, students can learn an array of concepts from basic to advanced: a more well-rounded experience
• High school students can be motivated to take up high studies and scientific careers
• Virtual labs will also address the lack of faculty in India as they are very well-detailed and do not need a teacher
• The experiments performed produce real scientific data and the software used simulates lab experiences
• Virtual demos and presentations help students make sense of what is there in the textbook, thereby enhancing their thought process and critical thinking skills


How are virtual laboratories, the new interactive form of learning math and science disciplines, revamping how information is disseminated, obtained and processed? digitalLEARNING invited learned people from the academia to shed light on how, with the advent of virtual labs, education is transcending all geographical barriers and spanning to every nook and corner of the country, and how the student-centric pedagogy is empowering students. Let us have a look at what they said:

Prof (Dr) Anil Sahasrabudhe, Director, College of Engineering Pune
In an era of Internet and World Wide Web, the virtual laboratory is a novel idea of empowering students from remote corners of the globe. The traditional education or content delivery is changing rapidly. This is true not only of theory, but now, even practical classes. The virtual laboratories will cost so much less because there are no consumables required and an experiment can be conducted at one’s choice at one’s will at anytime from anywhere. This is true empowerment for the 21st century engineering student. The team of faculty has put in lot of efforts to make this model a success. I appeal to students to start making use of this facility provided through funding by MHRD effectively.

Prof BP Sanjay, Vice Chancellor, Central Univeristy of Tamil Nadu
Virtual labs seem to be reverberating in the policy making circles where competing technologies claim to realise the same objective. New higher education institutions located in rural and remote areas are no doubt, ideal for extending the learning benefits of virtual labs. However, the last mile problems of connectivity suitable for high speed/volume data (AV format) and interactive costs are a deterrent. It is imperative that these are ad- dressed at the policy level before advocating virtual lab solutions. While we are doing our best to leverage learning technologies, we are continuously dogged by frequent power out- ages, monopolistic telecom service providers and reliable vendors who can provide good installation and after sales service.

Prof (Dr) Indira Parikh, Founder President, FLAME
Digital labs are going to have far reaching impact and will create a lot of enthusiasm and excitement and wonder at what is possible. But this is still not the end of the world. Unless students meet and interact with each other, the touch- feel factor will not happen. Therefore, technology needs to be tempered by group learning to make it very human.



Prof (Dr) MM Salunkhe, Vice Chancellor, Central University of Rajasthan
Students enjoy learning though virtual labs. The shortage of faculty is debated at the national level. I hope technology will take its own course and will make it possible to inculcate skill development in the students. There is great scope for this.




Prof (Dr) Ranjan Bose, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Delhi
Virtual Labs not only arouse curiosity in students, but also permit them to learn at their own pace. The pedagogy is student-centric. Virtual Labs are truly ‘any-place, any-pace, any- time, any-type’ labs!




Prof (Dr) Lovi Raj Gupta, Vice Chancellor, Baddi University of Emerging Sciences and Technologies
Virtual labs are going to be the next in thing in the academia in the times to come because they are going to provide students an opportunity to explore the set-ups at the premier institutes to learn more and more irrespective of their distance and remoteness. Virtual labs will also provide seamless opportunity for faculty members to upgrade their know how by learning from the design of experiments and they will try to frame better experiments in their organisations.

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