What is a virtual lab.
• Virtual lab is a software technology made available through WorldWideWeb on internet. This virtual lab software technology helps to simulate engineering and science laboratory experiments developed in java based interactive multimedia programming language. The school and college students of today are gradually being offered this technology in several countries of the word including India. These virtual laboratories have become a cheap source of practical education because schools and colleges can save on the overhead expenses on laboratory apparatus, materials etc. required to be made available in the case of conventional laboratories. The packaged software for virtual lab can also be provided through CDs /DVDs or even by contributing to the clouding service of the companies manufacturing operating systems for running various applications on computers or mobile devices. The virtual laboratory is provided to the users by several websites on payment, for example Virtual lab in chemistry for online experiments.
Why are virtual labs necessary?
• The virtual labs will prove to be very useful to the students of science and engineering, since they can keep on performing the experiments again and again until they become perfect in their scientific and engineering projects. The students can do experiments, solve problems, gather data and interpret it scientifically with the help of virtual labs. The modern communication technology of today and the multi-media hardware and software available today are well-suited to implant the high end program of virtual labs. This is going to become the one most fast moving programmes of E-learning.
• Virtual labs will cut down the costs and time presently spent on the conventional labs. It will be huge saving when we calculate the overall expenses of schools and colleges on the animals and insects procured for dissections alone. Crores of rupees can be saved on costly equipment and provision of buildings required for conventional labs.
• The conventional laboratories of schools and colleges are facing the acute shortage of frogs, earthworms, and cockroaches etc. which are required for dissections in the conventional laboratories. There will be no need to sacrifice these animals and insects in large numbers for experiments to be performed in the case of virtual labs. Moreover, the dissections in the conventional science laboratories can be performed only for a few times. However, the perfection can be achieved by the students by performing dissections through virtual labs till they reach perfection.
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and virtual labs.
• The environment of science experiments in the schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education is going to be different now. The students will no more be handling concave mirrors to show the reflection of light in the conventional science laboratories. The reaction of zinc with dilute sulphuric acid may not be manually done now. Students may not be required to handle chemicals, spirit lamps or different scientific instruments for their science experiments. All this will be out of question when the virtual labs will be introduced in these schools by the Central Board of Secondary Education.
• As per the report that appeared in the Deccan Chronicle published from Kochi on January 6, 2012, the Central Board of Secondary Education has joined hands with the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) Mumbai, the Amrita University and the Ministry of Human Resources Development and IT to make available online labs for Class IX and X students throughout the country. There is proposal to start virtual labs covering the subjects of physics and chemistry initially. The CBSE chairman, Mr Vineet Joshi stated that the virtual labs may be launched across the nation within a fortnight or so.
• The virtual labs is going to help the use of internet more efficiently by the students. They will be using the simulations in 2D and 3D models. There will be an interest in the students to do the experiments online using the interactive animations. This will increase their understanding of the subject more thoroughly. The virtual labs to be introduced by the CBSE will be as per the syllabus prescribed by the board. The science experiments in questions will be based on the four pronged concept of theory, procedure, simulator and viva voce.
Virtual labs in 800 govt. and 180 aided junior colleges of AP
• The Board of Intermediate Education (BIE) for Andhra Pradesh has gone a step ahead by providing virtual labs in 800 government colleges and 180 aided colleges throughout the state from the present academic year itself. Special software for this purpose has been developed by the Board of Intermediate Education and it has already distributed the programme CDs to these colleges.
• The plan of the BIE is to extend the virtual lab concept to all the junior colleges in the state of Andhra Pradesh. There are over 5,000 junior privately managed junior colleges in the state.
Websites offering virtual labs on the internet
• There are several websites which offer a few online science experiments free for evaluation purpose. The registered members of the websites can offer for subscribing to the websites if they so desire. The charges differ from site to site depending on the facilities provided. The members must evaluate the sites in their own interest before subscribing to them. Some websites offer special discounts in subscriptions or prices to schools and colleges. The schools or colleges wanting to avail this facility must contact the websites for details before making any payment. I have bookmarked a few websites for easy search. The list is given below: