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Distance learning and skill acquisition in engineering sciences: Present state and prospects

Veljko Potkonjak (School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia)
Kosta Jovanović (School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia)
Owen Holland (Department of Informatics, School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)
James Uhomoibhi (Faculty of Computing and Engineering, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK)

Multicultural Education & Technology Journal

ISSN: 1750-497X

Article publication date: 5 April 2013




The purpose of this paper is to present an improved concept of software‐based laboratory exercises, namely a Virtual Laboratory for Engineering Sciences (VLES).


The implementation of distance learning and e‐learning in engineering sciences (such as Mechanical and Electrical Engineering) is still far behind current practice in narrative disciplines (Economics, Management, etc.). This is because education in technical disciplines requires laboratory exercises, providing skill‐acquisition and hands‐on experience. In order to overcome this problem for distance‐learning developers and practitioners, a new modular and hierarchically organized approach is needed.


The concept involves simulation models to emulate system dynamics, full virtual reality to provide visualization, advanced social‐clubbing to ensure proper communication, and an AI tutor to supervise the lab work. Its modularity and hierarchical organization offer the possibility of applying the concept to practically any engineering field: a higher level provides the general framework – it considers lab workplaces as objects regardless of the technical field they come from, and provides communication and supervision – while the lower level deals with particular workplaces. An improved student's motivation is expected.


The proposed concept aims rather high, thus making the work truly challenging. With the current level of information and communication technologies, some of the required features can only be achieved with difficulty; however, the rapid growth of the relevant technologies supports the eventual practicality of the concept. This paper is not intended to present any final results, solutions, or experience. The idea is to promote the concept, identify problems, propose guidelines, and possibly open a discussion.



Potkonjak, V., Jovanović, K., Holland, O. and Uhomoibhi, J. (2013), "Distance learning and skill acquisition in engineering sciences: Present state and prospects", Multicultural Education & Technology Journal, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 64-88.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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