In line with the topic, the two-day conference <Online-Labs in Education> was successfully held on March 10 and 11, 2022 hybrid at the HFT Stuttgart with a total of over 60 participants from seven European countries.
Online labs have attracted public interest at least since the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying limited mobility. The Open Digital Lab for you (DigiLab4U) project, funded by the BMBF, has previously set itself the task of researching hybrid lab infrastructures and implementing them as prototypes. The international research network consists of the University of Parma, IWM Koblenz, RWTH Aachen, BIBA Bremen and HFT Stuttgart.
The focus of the conference was on online labs (remote, virtual, hybrid, augmented), which thematically address the Internet of Things(IoT). Even though the participants are very familiar with remote access, they were all very happy that some of them were able to meet on-site at the HFT Stuttgart. The on-site and online participation was about 50:50 - a technical as well as organizational challenge, which could be mastered by the on-site organization team in the best possible way, so that a collaborative experience was made possible. Even the interactive demos could - according to the title of the conference - be carried out without any problems.
The evaluations of the online labs mentioned in many presentations showed the acceptance and the didactic value of online labs. However, evaluations with students in some projects also showed that access to real labs continues to strongly motivate students. However, well-designed online and remote access is an enrichment and allows for more flexible usage concepts.
The conference highlighted scientific aspects from an organizational, didactic and technical perspective of the different laboratory infrastructures. On the first day, there was a mix of three technical lecture sessions in the morning and practical live demos to participate and try out in the afternoon. Due to the hybrid structure of the conference, remote access could be tested live during the event by online participants for selected demonstrations. The spectrum ranged from virtualized gasoline engines to serious games and remotely operated measuring equipment.
On Friday, four sessions followed with a focus on didactic and pedagogic aspects. Among the guests present were young scientists as well as some experienced "Godfathers of Online Labs" (live quote from the conference).
Laboratory-based learning chapters were presented alongside scientific publications - an approach that is far too rarely taken at scientific conferences.
The Online Labs in Education conference also reflected the final phase of the research project (DigiLab4U). The remote access to static lab infrastructures resulting from the research work offers teachers, staff and students a dynamic and quite flexible teaching and learning experience independent of location and time.
The contributions and the intensive exchange at the conference around practical teaching with online labs will ensure the dissemination of the results of the innovative structures and approaches in the community. However, the need for sustainable funding of the labs at universities was also repeatedly pointed out. All interested professors, researchers, students and colleagues who would like to learn more about online labs in teaching and research are invited to contact the Digilab4U team. More information about the conference and the DigiLab4U project can be found on the project website:https://digilab4u.com/.