Converting the physical to the virtual: providing a laboratory experience for distance learners in engineering

Face-to-face modules on the full-time Masters in Renewable Energy Systems Technology at Loughborough University involve students collecting data from physical laboratory experiments. Conversion to distance learning mode, due to demand from industry for the skills and competencies acquired, raised the problem of providing a comparable laboratory experience. The solution adopted was to develop a number of virtual laboratories to enable distance students to experience the same experiments as their face-to-face peers, the focus in both modes being on interpreting the data generated. The virtual laboratory described in this paper was designed to provide activities requiring students to review content covered in study notes, enhancing the learning associated with their progress through the experiment. This paper will provide evidence to show that distance students were not disadvantaged and that student evaluative feedback has been generally positive.