January 7, 2012
The IEEE International Conference on Technology Enhanced Education at the Amritapuri campus hosted the first ever multi-disciplinary workshop for virtual labs.
In 2009, the Ministry of Human Resources Development funded a massive initiative as part of the National Mission on Education through ICT to make engineering labs available online. The dozens of labs developed with extensive peer-review are now ready for field testing and deployment in engineering colleges all over India.
The international conference at Amrita showcased these labs through a one-day workshop and hands-on tutorial session.
Discipline-wise national coordinators or their representatives traveled from most partner institutes including IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, IIT Roorkee, IIT Guwahati, IIIT Hyderabad, Dayalbagh University, NIT Suratkal and College of Engineering, Pune to attend.
The partner institutes provided an overview and demo of the labs already developed in Electronics and Communications, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemical Sciences and Physical Sciences.
“We can refer to these virtual labs as knowledge modules that are designed for personal learning to satisfy a learner’s aspirations in an interactive way,” eloquently explained the project PI at Amrita, Dr. Krishnashree Achuthan.
“Most labs provide a lot of media-rich and interactive online material, the capability to actually remotely trigger instrumentation that may not be available in your own institute, the ability to read from a lot of resources and even a platform to share and collaborate with other researchers or students nationwide,” she added.
It was Amrita that first developed the innovative tabbed layout and user interface incorporating the lab’s learning objective, its theory, procedure, references, simulator, assignments to test learning and the ability to provide feedback.
This user interface is now adopted by labs being developed in all disciplines.
Amrita has contributed to the development of labs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in Biotechnology Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Sciences and Physical Sciences.
Dr. Bipin Nair, Dean, Amrita School of Biotechnology is the discipline-wise national coordinator for labs in Biotechnology Engineering. It is his responsibility to ensure that labs in that area are completed with support from the partner institutes.
“For biotechnology, 17 labs have been created; each lab has 10-12 experiments; 8 more labs will be added soon,” Dr. Bipin provided an overview at the workshop.
Dr. Shyam Diwakar demoed some of these labs – simulation-based, measurement-based and real-time experiments.
“It was a good session, especially for people like us developing such labs; we got an overview of all the disciplines,” stated Dr. Anjan K. Gupta of IIT Kanpur, the discipline-wise national coordinator for virtual labs in Physical Sciences.
“The workshop was an eye-opening experience; we learned about the technology and about the possibilities and the revolution that virtual experiences can make,” stated a delegate from abroad.
Virtual labs can help the student by giving them the experience of being in a laboratory doing an experiment, where otherwise he or she may not have had that opportunity, because of lab infrastructure deficits in many engineering colleges in India.
Virtual labs also help students by allowing them to repeat their experiments as many times as needed without any worries about the materials used or their wastage.
Virtual labs represent a paradigm shift in how students and teachers can use laboratories in their everyday learning. The goal of the team is to reach the 5,000,000 engineering students and teachers across the country.
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