Educational trends post COVID-19 in engineering: Virtual laboratories

Mater Today Proc. 2022;49:155-160. doi: 10.1016/j.matpr.2021.07.494. Epub 2021 Aug 5.

Abstract

The rapid advance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in recent times and the current pandemic caused by COVID-19 have profoundly transformed society and the economy in most of the world. The education sector has benefited from this ICT-driven revolution, which has provided and expanded multiple new tools and teaching methods that did not exist just a few decades ago. In light of this technological change, virtual laboratories (VLs) based on the use of virtual reality (VR) have emerged, which are increasingly used to facilitate the teaching-learning process in a wide range of training activities, both academic and professional types. The set of advantages offered by this type of VL, the main of which are listed in this article, has made its use increasingly common as support for engineering classes at universities. This paper presents a study involving 420 engineering students from Spanish and Portuguese universities and associated analyses on the assessment of different parameters in various VLs designed by the authors. The results obtained indicate that, in general, VR-based VLs are widely accepted and demanded by students, who likewise consider real laboratories (RLs) necessary in face-to-face teaching. In the current post-COVID-19 educational scenario, VLs and RLs will coexist within the new hybrid models that combine face-to-face and online teaching and learning.

Keywords: COVID-19; Didactic tools; Engineering; Hybrid education; Virtual laboratories; Virtual reality.