Purpose – This paper aims to report on the design and implementation of an e-laboratory for enhanced science, technology and engineering education studies. Design/methodology/approach – The paper assesses a computer-based e-laboratory, designed for new entrants to science, technology and engineering programmes of study in further and higher education to enable them complete proper “hands-on” (not simulation) laboratory experiments off-campus and also in virtual learning environments accessible remotely. The development of such a laboratory was in response to the inherent inability of web-based learning environments to duplicate, off-campus, the laboratory facilities and availability on-campus. The measurement of effectiveness relates to whether a laboratory task can be accurately and completely achieved. Common parameters included percentage task completion, error rate and assistance required. Operations under different conditions were studied and observations made from comparison on implementations. Findings – E-laboratories were found to be more student-centred with learners taking responsibility for their own learning.. The face-to-face pre-computer scenario learners had a very low completion rate, a high error rate and required constant assistance. The computer-based scenario resulted in a high completion rate, low error rate and a significant reduction in learner supervision. Research limitations/implications – The technical constraints imposed by present online environments, the resulting impact on specific learning styles, and possible solutions to overcome these limitations are discussed. Practical implications – Both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews established a positive impact on student learning, thus justifying development of similar systems. More research and applications could follow as this has the potential to impact positively on development and use of e-labs for enhanced science, technology and engineering studies in terms of costs, time and space requirements. Originality/value – The recent interest and advances in the development of remote and virtual labs has shown that students of today, who are digital natives, especially those in the fields of science, technology and engineering, find the use of e-laboratories very useful in enhancing their studies, encouraging them to use familiar technologies to access and do experiments either remotely or virtually online, thereby enhancing their learning. The approach adopted is unique and original, blending both virtual and hands-on approach to experimental studies.
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- Computer-based e-laboratory
- Engineering education
- Higher education
- Learning styles
- Northern Ireland