The research study covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global virtual and remote laboratories market for 2016-2020. The two major end-users of the market are institutions and individual learners. The institutions segmented is predicted to dominate the market during the forecast period with 71.75% market share.
Technavio education analysts highlight the following four factors that are contributing to the growth of the virtual and remote laboratories market in Europe:
- Rise in number of students opting for engineering education
- Stronger e-learning framework
- Growth of inquiry based learning (IBL)
- Science fairs and events stimulating interest in STEM-related careers
Rise in number of students opting for engineering education
Over the years, there has been a significant rise in number of students opting for engineering education. This proves a driving factor for the growth of the virtual and remote laboratories market in Europe.
With over 104,000 engineering graduates, France was the ninth largest country in the world in terms of engineering graduates in 2014.
Engineering students have to perform hands-on laboratory experiments as part of their curriculum. This is because laboratories allow students to experience the concepts of engineering by conducting experiments, testing hypotheses, observing dynamic phenomena, and forming deductions. One of the challenges for online education in engineering is how to extend the traditional hands-on laboratory settings over the Internet.
According to Jhansi Mary, a lead analyst at Technavio for research on education technology, “Virtual laboratories are increasingly being used for experiments that require expensive or unavailable equipment, or pose a danger to the experimenter’s life. Institutions that offer engineering need to invest in expensive equipment that will be needed for experiments, which are conducted multiple times, to gather accurate results. As the engineering domain sees growth, more institutions will emphasize on the use of virtual labs to experiment multiple times without causing damage to instruments and tools.”
Stronger e-learning framework
The concept of virtual and remote laboratories has led to cross-institution cooperation wherein students of one university can access the virtual and remote laboratories of other educational institutions. Students can also access work of laboratories, which use high quality infrastructure, in different countries.
“Virtual and remote laboratories are also enabling institutions to support distance education and offer cost-efficient learning. It gives students the option to record their laboratory experiments and observations so that they can be reviewed at a later date, complementing traditional classroom education. Such options give students with poorer Internet connections or those having Internet accessibility constraints access to the laboratory as per their convenience,” Jhansi.
Growth of inquiry based learning (IBL)
IBL helps students to acquire conceptual knowledge about their subject and develop inquiry skills. Institutions allow students to perform scientific experiments using virtual and remote laboratories, which are structured, to enhance their pedagogy. There are tools available to teachers, which help to create IBL interfaces with drag and drop features. These tools enable teachers to change language settings and incorporate concept mappers.
Teachers can also gain knowledge about the best practices followed by other teachers and share them with other faculty through online communities. Vendors offering virtual and remote laboratories can easily plug in and share their online laboratories. Mock-ups and prototypes are being used so that IBL tools are efficiently implemented by students and teachers.
Science fairs and events stimulating interest in STEM-related careers
The STEM skills gap in European countries has widened compared to other regions. While Asian STEM students accounted for nearly 20% of the student population, European students accounted for around 2% in 2014. Thus, European countries are focusing on organizing more science fairs, exhibitions, and events that will stimulate students to develop their skills and increase their interest in STEM-related jobs.
A network of science fairs, supported by Intel, is being held across Europe, and this is linked to the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS). EUCYS is linked to national science fairs held in various countries, such as The Big Bang Fair in the UK, and Eastern European festivals such as AMAVET Science Fair, and Festival of Science and Technology in Slovakia.
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