Virtual Laboratories

abstract | author | presentation

This workshop introduces practitioners and researchers to design that supports rapid development of Web-based virtual laboratories. Virtual laboratories enhance learning experiences by providing the student with a supplement to the physical lab. The laboratories allow students to perform exercises as if they were in an actual lab and to gather data for preparing lab reports. To increase student's engagement and interest, they are allowed to make errors and take wrong directions, and then backtrack to correctly perform the exercise. The architecture of the system is modular and can be easily extended to implement different laboratories and it supports augmentation by animation effects and realistic rendering of virtual objects. Most of the system components, including all the virtual labs, are implemented as Java Beans. The software framework is lightweight and can be downloaded as an applet in a browser. Extensible Markup Language (XML) is used for application and data description. To show the potential of the architecture, several virtual laboratories will be demonstrated: cell division, centrifugation, spectrophotometry, and virtual microscopy. The participants will be able to interact with the laboratories and see how they are actually used in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the Rutgers University. At the end, the participants will be aware of the issues to consider in developing interactive software for education over the Web and will be able to use Web technologies to develop such applications.

· The Web as a development platform
· Introduction to Java Beans (common software design patterns, characteristics of Java Beans)
· Introduction to Extensible Markup Language-XML (concepts and examples, XSLT)
· UML design for virtual laboratories (requirements analysis and design)
· Example virtual laboratories for freshmen-level biology courses
· Lessons learned about the design tradeoffs between generality, flexibility and scalability vs. performance and compactness

The workshop is intended for practitioners interested in state-of-the-art research in Web-based interactive software for education and for researchers interested in understanding the technical issues raised by the design of these systems. The participants are expected to have a basic knowledge of: the Java programming language and some experience in developing Java applets; client/server architectures; and, the HTML markup language.

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