Building real laboratories on the internet
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A majority of the pedagogical uses of computers fall somewhere within the five headings of Drill, Number Crunching, Laboratory applications, Simulations, and Self-paced courses . In this paper we discuss a sixth use for computerized instruction, dispersed laboratories over the Internet, one which was probably unanticipated years ago when the Internet and laboratory technologies were less accessible and less friendly than now. The pervasive interconnectivity of the Internet provides the means for entirely new kinds of laboratory experiences for the science student. For example, students can remotely access laboratory equipment that previously would have been too expensive or too dangerous for a typical student laboratory. Large-scale collaborative experiments between students separated geographically are also possible. Our efforts have been to adapt familiar laboratory and Internet technologies to support relatively easy faculty authorship of lessons and foster scientific exploration by the student. One outcome has been a straightforward and general solution using the Excel spreadsheet application for faculty lesson authorship and student data collection and analysis from shared instruments over the Internet. This paper presents an overview of the technology for science laboratories over the Internet, example laboratory experiments, and potential applications.