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The essential role of laboratories can be correlated with the fact that engineering education requires very good hands-on skills and involves elements of design, problem solving, and analytical thinking. Different approaches have been adopted for associating laboratory aims and outcomes. Three main approaches can be retain, Hands-on Labs, Virtual Labs and Remote Labs. First, Hands-on labs allow students to operate a real experiment or manipulate tactile objects while being directly collocated with the tools and objects in the same place. This type of learning environment provides students with the hazards of the real world, the disparity between theory and practice. On the other hand, hands-on experiments are seen as too costly. Hands-on labs put a high demand on space, instructor time, and experimental infrastructure, all of which are subject to rising costs. Second, virtual or simulated Labs are non-physical tools. They can be defined as a computer-based model of a real-life lab. It can be realized as a local or distributed application. An important educational value of virtual labs is the reduced risk associated with operator errors, and the opportunity to experiment and practice without being exposed to hazards and without the need to purchase real equipment. Simulations also reduce the amount of time it takes to learn. However excessive exposure to simulation will result in a disconnection between real and virtual worlds. Data from simulated labs are not real and therefore, the students cannot learn by trial-and-error. Third, Remote labs or online-laboratory are the most recent laboratory model in which students can physically perform hands-on experiments which are located at a place remote to the student, typically via Internet access getting rid of geographic proximity restrictions. Students and teachers working from distant locations, 24 hours a day, can share networked remote lab facilities.

A remote experiment (RE) consists of two vital parts, first the experiment itself equipped with suitable modules. Second a computer interface allowing control over the experiment via the internet.

In the frame of this project, students besides will practice a number of RE to increase their experimental skills. The actual situation is dictated by the challenges facing Jordan to modernize its engineering educational system in order to be ready to face manufacturing constrains imposed by globalization and free-trade regulations in the new era. Engineering education requires laboratory experiments allowing the student to gain extensive practical knowledge and skills. The experimental part in many engineering courses is mostly dedicated to build the experimental sense of the student. However, the lack of sufficient number of laboratory equipment does not satisfy the needs of the large number of students in the engineering classes. Students perform laboratory experiments in groups in which not all of them efficiently participate to the experiment setup, data recording and interpretation of results. The students do not get enough time to manipulate all the part of the experiments by their own or to repeat the measuring sequences.  Smart classrooms annexed to the student laboratories equipped with audiovisual means to do virtual demonstration experiments for students and suited only to large numbers. However, operating the experiments virtually by the students does not satisfy all their aspirations in manipulating real hands-on experiments. In laboratory work, students beside the virtual experimentation need a tool permitting to do real experimentation not limited to scheduled laboratory classes. The only way to satisfy those needs is thus to make the real experiments available remotely through the internet. The combination of virtual, remote and real experiments will supports the process of understanding in an outstanding manner which is vital for the learning and teaching process in an engineering education for students. Students aspire to possess a tool permitting to practice the lab experiments without visiting the lab which the access is limited due to their large number.

Large potential of specialized hands-on Labs; however possessing a tool permitting the remote experimentation will open for students the possibility for performing experiments  remotely on most sophisticated apparatus in different laboratories. We point the following problems in Jordan:

1.      The improvement of laboratory work in science is an international problem.

2.      The large number of students following science courses.

3.      The difficulty in keeping up with pace of actual learning methodologies based on the combination of face-to-face plus computer mediated instruction (blended learning).

4.      The difficulty to acquire “modern” experimental skills, which should account for the ability to carry out collaborative tasks using the Internet.

5.      Assistant staff, demonstrators and technicians not properly trained on laboratory work,

6.      Lack of sufficient equipment. The Ministry of Education in Jordan is aware of those problems and the necessity of modernization the laboratory work for large number of students by introducing new e-learning techniques.

The objective of the developed laboratory is to offer students interactive real-world plant experimentation in control and automation, problem solving, data gathering, and scientific interpretation. With an Internet access, we enable students to perform tests without the overhead incurred when maintaining a full presence laboratory and with the system security. For better exploitations, this laboratory needs to be integrated in a global and homogeneous learning management system (LMS).

It is also important to train and enhance the capacity of teachers to enable them sustain a long-term program in blended learning and remote labs. This can be achieved by creating a professional development and quality assurance centre to train core innovation teams to re-design and develop pilot courses in a blended learning mode with the appropriate pedagogic approaches and technical infrastructure support.


Remote Lab Architecture

Remote control comes as a solution to many problems such as high cost of equipments, the number of laboratory experiments is small when compared to the high number of students enrolled in the subject, and the setups are time consuming. In engineering education activities, the role of experimentation is a key concept. In most of the topics, physical experimentation is a better approach than simulation, since permit students to fully understand the physical laws, disturbances and restrictions, and to get acquainted with design procedures. Due to different goals and constraints, simulation and physical experimentation can be incorporated within the same e-learning platform. Remote

laboratories allow students to access experiments without time and location restrictions, allowing avoid dangerous failure situations. Some universities in the world are trying to collaborate and sharing remote laboratories and pedagogical activities.

Many definitions of remote lab environments can be found, and mutual understanding of what exactly is meant when talking about a remote laboratory does not exist. In some publications the terms remote-labs are often used synonymously. The following classification of laboratory environments may be proposed in table 2.1, where the criteria is based on nature of equipment and user access.


Nature of Equipment/ User Access



Physical (real)



Remote Lab

Virtual (Modeled)

Virtual lab


virtual lab

Table 2.1  Classification of laboratory environments


There are different approaches to implement remote laboratories, in terms of server side and client side software technologies (Java, Php, Ajax, LabVIEW, Matlab, etc) and hardware equipment (or simulators).

Remote experiments and virtual laboratories are actively used in various experimental in engineering. Related training courses have also been explored in communication engineering. Other interesting setups include the remote experiment and virtual lab for wind tunnels, a virtual laboratory for exploiting DSP algorithms and a learning tool for chip manufacturing. A remote lab usually has architecture as shown in Figure below.



Figure: Remote Lab Architecture.

A laboratory manager uses the timetable to set up the RE among different users as time slots, duration of each slot lasts for about 30 minutes for example. so many students can use the lab.

A typical scenario of a remote lab experiment involves the following steps: 

  1. Performing the experiment: When a student starts performing the experiment, he is able to enter input values and submit them to the hardware. The hardware, then, acts upon the input parameter and generates results. The results are finally collected by the local host computer and sent back to the student’s computer. The student can rerun (submit different values to) the experiment as many times as he desires. Once satisfied, he can submit the results for grading.

  2. Instructor login: The instructor login is recognized and thus taken to a different panel where he can perform different tasks like viewing lists and results, grading students, adding experiments, etc.