Assisting increasing demands on Distance Education in Latin America with a wider remote laboratories network based on VISIR
A number of Higher Education Institutions in Latin America (LA) are currently installing a remote laboratory named Virtual Instrument System in Reality (VISIR), with the assistance of European partners that have been using it for more than 5 years, expanding the present excellence network of users of VISIR worldwide, under the support and co-financing of the European Union Erasmus Plus Program.
Among the Latin American (LA) High Education Institutions (HEI) are the National University of Rosario and the National University of Santiago del Estero, both in Argentina, plus the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, the Federal University of Santa Catarina, and the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina, in Brazil.
Brazil, in particular, is witnessing an increased demand for Distance and Online Education, both as a complement to traditional education and as a pure e-learning modality. The demand is also targeting Engineering degrees, where the concern with the acquisition of practical competences increases the interest in using online labs, which can be divided in virtual (based on simulations) and remote (providing access to real equipment-based) laboratories.
VISIR is a remote lab for conducting real experiments with electrical and electronic circuits over the Internet, thus supporting the teaching and learning theory and practice of this particular subject. These experiments can range from fundamental laws in Electricity, such as Ohm’s and Kirchhoff’s laws, present in Introductory Physics courses, to more advanced concepts such as active filters, using operational amplifiers, covered in Analogue Electronics courses.
Professor Ingvar Gustavsson, from the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden, developed VISIR in 1999 and, with the support of VINNOVA, started its dissemination in 2006. The Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, in Austria, the Polytechnic of Porto, in Portugal, and the University of Deusto and the National Distance Education University, both in Spain, are some of the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that acquired VISIR and have been using it with their students, for more than 5 years.
Conscious of the situation in LA, while also seeking to share its experience and enlarge the Community of Practice around VISIR, these HEIs submitted a proposal to the Erasmus+ program - Key Action 2 – Capacity building in the Field of Higher Education. The proposal entitled “Educational Modules for Electric and Electronic Circuits Theory and Practice following an Enquiry-based Teaching and Learning Methodology supported by VISIR”, was submitted in February 2015, selected for funding in July 2015, and effectively started in February 2016, with its Kick-Off Meeting (KOM) in Karlskrona, Sweden.
The first Training Action (TA) was held in conjunction with the KOM, i.e. each LA partner selected two staff members to learn what is VISIR, how it can be used in teaching and learning scenarios, following an enquiry-based approach, and the educational gains and outcomes enabled by it.
Following this initial TA, LA partners started their VISIR acquisition and installation process, and also selected an enlarged number of their academic staff to attend a second TA, run at their own premises, by a project affiliated EU partner. In addition, each LA partner invited a few staff members from nearby associated partners, to also attend the TA.