The Virtual Web-accessible X-ray Laboratory (ATeL-XRL) is being developed to address the challenges and demands of traditional, distance and blended education and satisfies learning habits of today's students. Using virtual X-ray equipments and cyberinfrastructure, students are able to perform authentic X-ray laboratory assignments online. ATeL-XRL provides students with opportunities to practice concepts, tasks, and equipment operation in a manner that often cannot be achieved using actual equipment.
The ATeL-XRL virtual equipment realistically imitates the functionality and design of actual X-ray equipment and includes educational analytical software, as well as a wide variety of supplemental educational resources. Virtual data, acquired in the experiments, can be exported to popular analytical software packages.
An easy-to-use authoring tool enables instructors to customize existing online experiments and create new ones. The proprietary built-in learning management system (LMS) helps instructors to keep track of student performance. It makes to split students on small collaborative groups and create unlimited number of learning assignments for students and tailor them with student backgrounds and a specific educational goal. The instructor is able to incorporate into the VE his/her favorite resources.
This power and flexible educational tool can also help students to gain knowledge and practical skills that that difficult to get in using real computerized x-ray equipment. In addition, it does not require capital investment into expensive equipment during the learning process, observing rigorous safety precautions, and it does not cost anything to maintain and repair.
Challenges
The Virtual X-ray laboratory is being developed to address the following challenges:
  • Today's online engineering, technology and natural sciences courses do not provide hands-on experimentation which is an integral and necessary part of any traditional science or engineering curricula.
  • Limited availability of advanced research equipment for educational purposes. (Modern equipment is very expensive, unique, and complex).
  • Many students have poor understanding of operational principles and underlying phenomena, as well as factors affecting data accuracy due to the fact that contemporary x-ray equipment is typically fully computerized and most tasks are executed without students' participation. Consequentially, students cannot correctly estimate reliability of the results and method limitations.
  • Low adaptability of web-based interactive virtual resources and impossibility to reuse and tailor them to a specific course, learning objectives, students' level and background, etc.
  • Some x-ray experiments are very time consuming and/or involve very slow processes requiring more time that can be allocated to studying the corresponding subjects.