Unfortunately, virtual labs don't give "real" hands-on experience when working with electrical circuits. It won't teach you what happens when you short a power supply, exceed the voltage rating of a capacitor or the power rating of a resistor.
Not to extend the list beyond reason, but unless a student has experienced electrical faults, such as a reversed biased electrolytic capacitor, high-voltage damage from ESD, leakage, crosstalk and noise from other logic within a system. A new EE does not get the complete picture that would make him/her a great engineer. The Virtual world is way too sanitized to provide the richness of the REAL world.
I think the title of this piece is misleading, and that therefore the previous two commenters came to the wrong conclusion.
This virtual lab is real. It consists of a kit of actual components, and a physical breadboard. The kit is delivered to the students via snail mail, or perhaps they can physically walk to an engineering building to pick it up.
The online aspects, and I gather the digital voltmeter and oscilloscope, are installed in the students' PCs. And there are also Skype sessions with the profs. However, the lab is a home "kit" of real physical components.
I've believed for some time now that for education to keep its costs reasonable, it will have to exploit digital autmation to the same extent as just about every other part of our economy. Same holds true for medicine. Both fields are still very labor-intensive, and therefore their costs have been increasing way too much. This seems like just the sort of initiative that we need.
I'm glad you cleared the air about tthe virtual lab being real and agree with your points. Perhaps the title could have been amended to "Why engineering students need a remote lab bench." The word "virtual" has its peculiar connotations.
The "Lab-in-a-box" is also being used to teach clinical doctoral-level audiology (Au.D. degree)students at at least one university, at my suggestion to a faculty member.
As it turns out, audiologists need the training, as they deal not only with prosthetics (hearing aids & cochlear implants), but also for electrophysiology -- Primarily auditory brainstem evoked response (ABR & ASSR), but also vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP) and electrocochleogram (EcochG) testing.
An useful teaching method.The lab kit needs to have function generator,a multi channel digitizer,to measure current ,volt hertz,ohms,farads,Henry and ohms. A minimum of 4 channels required.Also a wave form monitor PC scope with a bandwidth of 5Mhz and 1 mv resolution.All this can be integrated for about $250 and will be highly useful to the students.
Being late to the table, I agree with Bert and agk...We are fortunate to have about 1.5 million Raspberry Pi's in the hands of hobbyists and students; along with a couple of billions of smart devices; all we need is an open platform with low-cost electronics to accomplish our Portable Experimenter Platform, powered by the Pi. It lets student perform hands-on experimentation such as measuring speed of sound, sonar, and later, measuring speed of light, etc. We have working prototypes and are seeking financial support to evolve it into a powerful lesson delivery system. Please check into WattminderInstruments.com and give us a critique.
The Other Tesla David Blaza5 comments I find myself going to Kickstarter and Indiegogo on a regular basis these days because they have become real innovation marketplaces. As far as I'm concerned, this is where a lot of cool ...