School of
Information Technology and Electrical Engineering

Speaker: Mr Ali Altalbe
Seminar Date: Wed, 04/10/2017 - 10:00
Venue: 78-222
Host: Prof Neil Bergmann

Seminar Type:  PhD Thesis Review


This research is focused on understanding the role of virtual laboratories and physical laboratories, specifically in the context of the electrical engineering discipline.  It is important to emphasize that the research is not aimed at replacing physical laboratories as they form an essential part of the education of electrical engineers, but rather to supplement them using virtual laboratories.  In the literature, there are different perspectives on the implementations of virtual laboratories.  Virtual laboratories have been found to be effective for students, particularly those with limitations, either physical or time-based, who may have difficulties with aspects of accessing physical laboratories and the associated scheduling.  Instructors and technical staff may find virtual laboratories useful, but with additional challenges for set-up, maintenance and integration with coursework.  At the university level, there may be cost considerations that affect decisions about supplementing and/or replacing physical laboratories with virtual laboratories.  Throughout the literature, there are multiple studies that argue the effectiveness of virtual laboratories is equivalent to learning in the physical laboratory.  Disadvantages found included insufficient realism, ineffective groupwork capabilities, maintenance of the systems and a lack of appropriate skill set development for real-world situations.  Advantages included flexibility for students, more time for experimentation, fewer overcrowded classroom and lower costs than physical laboratories.  After identifying  gaps in the literature , this research addresses four research questions.

Research Question 1 – What learning objectives in experimental laboratories identified in the ABET list are important from faculty and student perspectives?  In this research teamwork and learning from failures were identified as the most important learning objectives.

Research Question 2 – What design features for virtual laboratories are important from faculty and student perspectives? In this research realism, online tools for communicating with tutors and a preference for real-time interaction were identified important design features.  A flexible, and easy-to-use interface was also important.

Research Question 3 – How can virtual laboratories supplement physical laboratories from faculty and student perspectives? This research found that students used the virtual laboratories to prepare for exams, as well as prepare for classroom exercises.  Students indicated the need to use virtual laboratories to prepare for real-world scenarios where more and more, particularly in hazardous situations, remote access is preferred.  There was also a contingent of students who did not want to use the virtual laboratory at all.

Research Question 4 – What design guidelines are important for the implementation of a virtual laboratory in an electrical engineering context? A set of 10 detailed design guidelines have been developed .


Ali Altalbe completed his B.Sc. in Computer science in Umm AlQura University in Saudi Arabia and MSc in Information Technology from Flinders University, Australia. Currently, he is studying toward a PhD degree in eLearning and Virtual Labs at UQ under the supervision of Prof. Neil Bergmann and Dr. Peter O'Shea.