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Purdue Virtual Lab Incubator

This video shows an excerpt from a training application firefighters use to navigate buildings when visibility is low. It is an example of using mixed-reality technologies with video captured during the walkthrough of a real building.

Complex topics can be challenging both for instructors to teach and for students to learn, and while instructional strategies have varied over the years, modern computer graphics environments can provide students with enhanced learning opportunities. By combining mixed reality technologies with physics-based modeling and simulation and authentic machine interfaces, virtual labs (VL) can both enhance student learning and aid in review and assessment.

Some students struggle to understand complex engineering and technical concepts when first introduced. Typical lab environments for those courses may not have enough space, class time, or equipment for every student to have as many repetitions and learning opportunities as they need. Increased enrollment in specific academic programs has also placed a strain on available classroom teaching space. By using virtual labs, faculty can cover the most essential content during the specified class time, and students can interact with the virtual lab materials multiple times outside of class at their own pace. Whether for initial content presentation, or remediation, virtual labs can be effective instructional media.

With the need to adapt instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Purdue faculty are rapidly working to bring their course content online, and to make the hybrid and online environment as effective as possible. To help with this effort, the Purdue Virtual Lab Incubator (PVLI) was launched. The PVLI is a studio-based production environment, comprised of a team of Computer Graphics Technology faculty and students, faculty from the College of Engineering and the Polytechnic Institute, and staff from the Center for Instructional Excellence, to produce virtual labs for faculty across campus.

By leveraging technology and sound instructional design, Virtual Labs can provide:

  • Enriched lab experience that is manageable and scalable
  • More opportunities to interact with equipment
  • Longer timescale experiments by providing additional iterations
  • Supervised feedback
  • Provide additional learning modalities for students
  • Relief on infrastructure from unforeseen circumstances

How can the Virtual Labs Incubator help instructors?

  1. The PVLI will work with instructors to understand the instructional content of their courses.
  2. PVLI production staff will then work with that instructor and their graduate assistant to capture specific content and learning objectives.
  3. The Incubator team will then create digital models of the equipment or tools involved in the lab exercise, develop the library of digital assets to accompany that course, and integrate the modeling and simulation engine with the digital object assets.
  4. PVLI and Innovative Learning staff will work with the course instructor to maximize instructional impact and assessment opportunities.

Whether the goal is to de-densify a classroom space, create supplemental materials for a hybrid class, provide accessibility to students unable to attend live classes, or transition to a fully online environment, the Purdue Virtual Labs Incubator will develop customized solutions to enhance the learning experience for each course.

Who to Contact

If you are an instructor interested in learning more about what Purdue Virtual Labs can do for your course, or if you are participating in IMPACT X or X+ and want to use virtual labs, please contact:
Dr. Michael Sangid:
Dr. Nathan Hartman:
If you are instructor who has an exercise that you would like to have converted to a virtual lab, please fill out this survey.

Arachnids Project