Remote Operation, Immersive 3D Virtual Environments and Interactive Screen Experiments for Teaching Practical Science Online

Norton, A. J. (2010). Remote Operation, Immersive 3D Virtual Environments and Interactive Screen Experiments for Teaching Practical Science Online. Open University, Milton Keynes, U.K..

Abstract

One of the biggest challenges facing the Open University and other providers of distance education courses in Science is the provision of practical work for students. In Physics and Astronomy, subject benchmarks and professional bodies each stress the importance of such experience for students.

Work in the piCETL has explored the use of a number of approaches to teaching practical Physics and Astronomy that provide an alternative experience to a conventional laboratory- based curriculum. These approaches are more readily applicable to teaching students at a distance, on a global scale, and may broadly be divided into three categories:

1. remote operation of equipment
2. immersive 3D virtual environments
3. interactive screen experiments

All three types of experience will likely find a place in the planned Level 2 Advanced Scientific Investigations module which will be a compulsory component of the new BSc Natural Science qualification that is currently being developed by the OU Science Faculty. For many students, spending a few days or a week away from home to carry out practical work at a ‘traditional’ OU residential school is something they are not able, or not willing, to do. These remote, virtual, and on-line alternatives offer such students a far greater choice and enable access to be provided to groups of students who have previously been denied an experience of practical science. They also mean that, for the first time, OU practical science modules can be offered globally.

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