Jesús A. del Alamo


"If You Can't Come to the Lab.

the Lab Will Come to You!"

iLab in Africa - Overview

Online laboratories ("iLabs") provide access to real laboratories through the Internet. iLabs enrich science and engineering education by injecting new lab experiences in the curriculum and by allowing students to carry out experiments at times and locations of their choosing. iLabs offer the potential of enriching science and engineering education around the world by bringing educationally meaningful laboratory experiences to students wherever an Internet connection is available. The 24x7 character of iLabs gives them unique scalability properties. iLabs, unlike conventional laboratories, can be shared among educational institutions, even if located in different time zones around the globe. In particular, iLabs allow the developed world to support the educational objectives of the developing world at a relatively low marginal cost.

This "universality" of iLabs is seriously challenged in locations where access to the global Internet is limited by narrow bandwidths and high connection costs, or where students have restricted access to computers. Such conditions are pervasive in the developing world and are particularly dire in sub-Sahara Africa. Realizing the potential of iLabs in these environments requires more than just providing free access to available iLabs to African students. It will require a close collaboration among educators to develop and share educational content. It will also demand technology transfer and adaptation as well as personnel development to promote the creation of new iLabs designed to address unique curricular goals and constraints. This project will provide a framework for a richer set of educational interactions among the partner institutions and will also serve as a model for partnerships among institutions in the developed world and in the developing world.

The iLabs Africa project is composed of three main components:

  • Teaching: This module aims to insert and utilize MIT's existing iLabs in the curriculum of partner institutions through the direct collaboration of the educators involved. Educational content, adapt manuals and tutorial materials will be shared, and new content and materials developed in a collaborative manner.

  • Lab dissemination: MIT will assist the partner institutions in the development of new labs in Africa that are uniquely designed to address local curricular needs and constraints. These labs will be shared among all partners.

  • Student/staff exchange: This component will bring African graduate students and staff to MIT to be part of the group designing and implementing iLabs technology and new educational content. It will also send MIT undergraduate students to strengthen the iLabs-related efforts at the three partner universities in Africa.

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