Cost-Effective Distributed Learning with Electronics Labs

Award Winner: 
2003 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Olin Campbell, Brigham Young University
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Vanderbilt University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Vanderbilt University utilizes simulated electronics laboratories to increase access and decrease the number of trips to a physical lab at a reduced cost.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Cost effective aspects of online environment: Online learners can study at convenient times and collaborate with others online, but usually cannot come to physical labs. We investigated the use of simulated electronics laboratories to increase access and decrease trips to a physical lab. Since physical class space is premium, a reduction in onsite sessions would reduce cost and increase access.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

We explored the notion that it might be possible to offer some virtual "hands-on" laboratory classes outside the physical laboratory setting to increase access and reduce/contain physical plant needs. In place-based education, labs can be costly, time-consuming, and difficult to schedule. We replaced some expensive physical equipment with low-cost simulations to increase access to up-to-date electronic laboratory experiences and decrease the amount and cost of equipment.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Using off-the-shelf electronic laboratory simulation software, the cost for labs is in the range of $10-$120 per station, much less than the costs associated with physical equipment and faculty/TAs required to provide instruction.

References, supporting documents: 

[19] Falcon Software. (2003, Mar.). [Online]. Available:

Other Comments: 

The work reported here was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Science Foundation (grant USE-9156244), Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, Microsoft Corporation, Falcon Software, and Hewlett Packard. Thanks are due to the people who reviewed and took part in the research for this project: John Bourne, Olin College of Engineering Pieter J. Mosterman, The MathWorks Mahmood Nahvi, California Polytechnic State University Rassa Rassai, Northern Virginia Community College Arthur J. Brodersen, Vanderbilt University Martine Dawant, Olin College of Engineering

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Olin Campbell
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