Call for Papers: Online labs & virtual experimentation in higher education

Aims & Scope of Special Issue 

Over the last decades, and in particular during COVID-19, the use of digital technology not only affected the general way of teaching and learning in higher education but especially affected laboratory-based teaching and learning (Reeves & Crippen, 2020). For many years online laboratory solutions have been “just” another option for student experimentation in addition to in-class experimentation activities (e.g., Toth et al., 2009, Jahnke et al., 2010, Mackay & Fisher, 2012, de Jong et al., 2013, May et al., 2019, Terkowsky et al. 2019). The developments around the global pandemic in 2020, however, have forced many institutions to rapidly switch from face-to-face classes to online courses, which proved to be especially difficult for laboratory courses even before COVID-19 (Ma & Nickerson, 2006, Corter et al., 2007, de la Torre et al., 2013, Heradio et al., 2016, Faulconer & Gruss, 2018, Jones, 2018, Hernández-de-Menéndez et al., 2019, Wei et al., 2019, May, 2020). Hence, this year for the first time online laboratories have been the only option for faculty to offer at least some laboratory activities. Building on existing research results, this has been a true accelerator for many new developments, approaches, and activities in this field. This Special Issue is intended to report research results in context with both new experiences just made in the time of COVID-19 and long-term research efforts on online laboratories and virtual experimentation in educational contexts (COVID-19 related experiences and results are also expected to be put in a larger context that speaks to longer-term considerations, e.g. Makransky et al. 2020, Baker et al., 2016). 
In particular, this special issue seeks original contributions of studies on online laboratories and virtual experimentation in higher education and invites international scholars to report on the current status, recent research, and future directions of online laboratory design, development efforts, and educational research (e.g., Zacharia & Constantinou, 2008, Ekmekci & Gulacar, 2015, Bortnik et al., 2017, Fang et al., 2018). Papers should focus on recent developments in pedagogy and instruction, instructional design, and learning design & technologies  in the context of online laboratories. Submissions should draw conclusions from empirical investigations or research reviews.

The special issue seeks submission from researchers and research-active practitioners  (e.g., educators, learning designers) across all disciplines to identify current trends, critical challenges, and future opportunities for laboratory-based education in the context of online education efforts. Labs and experimentation are used across a wide range of disciplines from engineering to environmental studies to pharmacology, and other disciplines often conduct work related to online laboratories and virtual experimentation, such as higher education research, online learning, computer science, user experience and learning experience labs, and virtual reality research, to name just a few.

This issue welcomes a broad spectrum of disciplinary research activities in this space as long as instructional activities with a focus on teaching and learning outcomes are the central focus (not technical papers or design descriptions). 

Priority will be given to papers that demonstrate a strong grounding in learning theory and/or rigorous educational research design. Work should include an extensive research component in order to be considered and can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods. Systematic reviews may be also considered as long as they are clearly aligned with the special issue ideas and present interesting challenges and research opportunities in this area. One or two position papers may be considered provided that they are well-written, well-resourced, and advance significant new ideas or conceptual frameworks for this space. 

Topics of Interest
All topics listed below are related to studies of teaching and learning or in the context of learning design. Topics may include but are not limited to: 

●    Applications and experiences with online education and learning in lab courses
●    Augmented and mixed reality lab solutions and their impact on learning 
●    Collaborative work and learning in online or virtual lab environments
●    Educational research on online labs and virtual experimentation
●    Face-2-face to online laboratory courses transition with a focus on learning
●    Innovations and implications of online technologies and software for learning
●    Intersection and integration of a variety of online experimentation solutions
●    Learning related assessment models for online labs and virtual experimentation
●    Online experimentation and learning across all disciplines in higher education
●    Online learning approaches for lab courses in the era of COVID-19
●    Lab process visualization and virtual instrumentation in context of learning
●    Self-regulated learning in online lab environments
●    Student and faculty motivation in online laboratory courses
●    Sustainability in online laboratory development for learning contexts
●    The relationship of human-computer interaction, user experience and learning in online labs
●    Visualized, simulated, virtual, and remote-controlled laboratories for learning

Important Dates

Extended Submission Deadline: 

Full Manuscripts due: June 15, 2021
Notification of reviewers’ 1st feedback: Aug 15, 2021
Revised manuscript submission: October 15, 2021
Feedback on revised manuscripts: November 30, 2021
Final manuscript submission: January 31, 2021
Notification of final decision: Feb. 28, 2022 

Initial Submissions: 

If you submitted for the initial deadline (January 31, 2021), the following review process still applies for your submission:
Notification of reviewers’ 1st feedback: March 31, 2021
Revised manuscript submission: May 15, 2021
Feedback on revised manuscripts: June 30, 2021
Final manuscript submission: August 31, 2021
Notification of final decision: September 30, 2021 

Guest Editors
Dr. Dominik May, University of Georgia, Athens GA, USA , (main contact)
Dr. Isa Jahnke, University of Missouri, Columbia MO, USA,
Dr. Stephanie L. Moore, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, USA,

Notes for Prospective Authors
Authors may submit both a 2-page abstract as a manuscript proposal and full manuscripts (see separate deadlines). On the basis of the proposal, the editorial team may invite the authors to submit a full manuscript or reject the submission. 
Authors should prepare their manuscript following the formatting guidelines set out by the Journal of Computing in Higher Education that can be found at Submission Guidelines

All manuscripts should be submitted online at Submit manuscript and authors should select Special Issue: Online labs & virtual experimentation in higher education when submitting the manuscript. 

Submitted papers should present original work relevant to one or more of the topics of the special issue, and should not have been submitted or published elsewhere.

All submitted papers will be peer-reviewed and evaluated on the basis of relevance, significance of contribution, technical quality, scholarship, and quality of presentation, following the Journal of Computing in Higher Education reviewing procedures. It is the policy of the journal that no submission, or substantially overlapping submission, be published or be under review at another journal or conference at any time during the review process. 

In addition, to facilitate the peer review process, you are expected to peer-review one or two other authors’ submissions. Detailed information on the peer review process will be provided. 


Baker, R. S., Clarke-Midura, J., & Ocumpaugh, J. (2016). Towards general models of effective science inquiry in virtual performance assessments. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(3), 267–280.

Bortnik, B., Stozhko, N., Pervukhina, I., Tchernysheva, A., & Belysheva, G. (2017). Effect of virtual analytical chemistry laboratory on enhancing student research skills and practices. Research in Learning Technology, 25.

Corter, J. E., Nickerson, J. V., Esche, S. K., Chassapis, C., Im, S., & Ma, J. (2007). Constructing reality: A study of remote, hands-on, and simulated laboratories. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact., 14(2), 7–es.

De Jong, T., Linn, M. C., & Zacharia, Z. C. (2013). Physical and virtual laboratories in science and engineering education. Science, 340(6130), 305-308.

De la Torre, L., Heradio, R., Jara, C. A., Sanchez, J., Dormido, S., Torres, F., & Candelas, F. A. (2013). Providing collaborative support to virtual and remote laboratories. IEEE transactions on learning technologies, 6(4), 312-323.

Ekmekci, A., & Gulacar, O. (2015). A Case Study for Comparing the Effectiveness of a Computer Simulation and a Hands-On Activity on Learning Electric Circuits. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 11(4).

Fang, N., & Tajvidi, M. (2018). The effects of computer simulation and animation (CSA) on students’ cognitive processes: A comparative case study in an undergraduate engineering course. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34(1), 71–83.

Faulconer, E. K., & Gruss, A. B. (2018). A review to weigh the pros and cons of online, remote, and distance science laboratory experiences. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(2), 156-168.

Heradio, R., De La Torre, L., Galan, D., Cabrerizo, F. J., Herrera-Viedma, E., & Dormido, S. (2016). Virtual and remote labs in education: A bibliometric analysis. Computers & Education, 98, 14-38.

Hernández-de-Menéndez, M., Guevara, A. V., & Morales-Menendez, R. (2019). Virtual reality laboratories: a review of experiences. International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDeM), 13(3), 947-966.

Jahnke, I., Terkowsky, C., Pleul, C. & Tekkaya, A. E., (2010). Online learning with remote-configured experiments. 8. Tagung der Fachgruppe E-Learning der Gesellschaft für Informatik, 265-277.

Jones, N. (2018). Simulated labs are booming. Nature, 562(7725), S5–S7.

Ma, J., & Nickerson, J. V. (2006). Hands-on, simulated, and remote laboratories: A comparative literature review. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR), 38(3), 7-es.

Mackay, S., & Fisher, D. (2012). Web Conferencing and Remote Laboratories as Part of Blended Learning in Engineering and Science: A Paradigm Shift in Education or More of the Same? In Technologies for Enhancing Pedagogy, Engagement and Empowerment in Education: Creating Learning-Friendly Environments (pp. 246-263): IGI Global.

Makransky, G., Mayer, R., Nøremølle, A., Cordoba, A. L., Wandall, J., & Bonde, M. (2020). Investigating the feasibility of using assessment and explanatory feedback in desktop virtual reality simulations. Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(1), 293–317.

May, D. (2020). Cross Reality Spaces in Engineering Education–Online Laboratories for Supporting International Student Collaboration in Merging Realities. International Journal of Online and Biomedical Engineering (iJOE), 16(03), 4-26.

May, D., Trudgen, M., & Spain, A. V. (2019). Introducing Remote Laboratory Equipment to Circuits - Concepts, Possibilities, and First Experiences. ASEE 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition “Charged up for the next 125 years”, Tampa, Florida.

Reeves, S. & Crippen, K. (2020, October). Virtual Laboratories in Undergraduate Science and Engineering Courses: a Systematic Review, 2009–2019. Journal of Science Education and Technology (2020).

Terkowsky, C., Frye, S., & May, D. (2019). Online engineering education for manufacturing technology: Is a remote experiment a suitable tool to teach competences for “Working 4.0”? European Journal of Education, 54(4), 577-590.

Toth, E. E., Morrow, B. L., & Ludvico, L. R. (2009). Designing blended inquiry learning in a laboratory context: A study of incorporating hands-on and virtual laboratories. Innovative Higher Education, 33(5), 333-344.

Wei, J., Treagust, D. F., Mocerino, M., Lucey, A. D., Zadnik, M. G., & Lindsay, E. D. (2019). Understanding interactions in face-to-face and remote undergraduate science laboratories: a literature review. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research, 1(1), 14.

Zacharia, Z. C., & Constantinou, C. P. (2008). Comparing the influence of physical and virtual manipulatives in the context of the Physics by Inquiry curriculum: The case of undergraduate students’ conceptual understanding of heat and temperature. American Journal of Physics, 76(4), 425-430.