Lab4CE: a Remote Laboratory for Computer Education

In IJAIED 27 (1): "Special Issue on AI-Supported Education in Computer Science "

Publication information

154-180

Coaching, Computer science, Online learning environment, Remote laboratory

Abstract

Remote practical activities have been demonstrated to be efficient when learners come to acquire inquiry skills. In computer science education, virtualization technologies are gaining popularity as this technological advance enables instructors to implement realistic practical learning activities, and learners to engage in authentic and problem-based learning. However, virtualization solutions have not been designed especially for education and do not address any pedagogical concern. Since several large-scale studies showed that instructional supports during practical activities are almost as important as technical features, this article investigates the following research question: how the scaffolding around the lab increases students’ engagement in remote practical learning of computer science? To answer this question, we introduce the Lab4CE environment, a remote laboratory for computer education which adopts a distributed, modular and flexible architecture to integrate a set of scaffolding tools and services intended for instructors and learners. An exploratory study conducted with 139 undergraduate students enrolled in the first year of a computer science degree suggests a positive effect of the framework on learners’ engagement when they come to practice system administration, and reveals a significant positive correlation between students’ activity within the system and students’ learning achievement.