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Virtual laboratory on biomass for energy generation

Redel-Macías, M.D., Pinzi, S., Martínez-Jiménez, M.P., Dorado, G., Dorado, M.P.
Journal of cleaner production 2016 v.112 pp. 3842-3851
Internet, biomass, computer software, computer techniques, energy, engineering, learning, power generation, questionnaires, renewable energy sources, students, teachers
Virtual laboratories (VL) and interactive simulations are excellent approaches for training students to understand technical principles. This can be useful in many fields of science and engineering teaching. For this purpose, we have developed a virtual environment that can simulate real-laboratory operations, effectively enhancing the teaching process with an intuitive and appealing interface. Such software shows the virtual-studio practice characterization of basic biofuel-properties, simulating reality step-by-step. This virtual laboratory has been used by students of the postgraduate master subject on Biomass for Power Generation, belonging to the Master of Distributed Renewable Energy. The aim of this tool is to help students to study, learn and investigate on their own. The virtual lab is made of a web-based application to complement experimental laboratory training, allowing students to prepare their experimental practices before going to the lab, and to review them at any time afterwards. The computer application exhibits key virtual-lab educational features, like an integrative layout and self-evaluating tests. It allows a personalized and active learning-process, adaptability to teacher's aims and versatility and simplicity, using different multimedia resources. A satisfaction questionnaire was carried out between master degree students to evaluate the usefulness of the VL. Such a tool was positively evaluated, achieving a mean score of 6 out of 7 points. Additionally, the VL efficiency in the learning process showed a final examination main score of 8 out of 10 points. Last but not least, most students considered that the VL promoted learning and personal effort, being an excellent preparatory tool to real experiments.