“Adding real educational value to the science lab ”

Technical stuff

Virtual Experiments are photographically recorded versions of real experiments. They differ from an ordinary movie in that they are capable of being both nonlinear and multidimensional -- there is no constraint to a single timeline, nor to a single beginning and a single end. In controlling the VE via the computer mouse, the student may explore a multi-parameter space to repeat a selection of the actual experimental situations that were recorded when the VE was made, collecting measurements and readings as appropriate, in whatever order the student chooses. The aim of a typical VE is that the student should feel that they are remotely controlling an actual experiment and that parameter space is continuous.

There is normally no simulation encoded into a VE. The author does not impose his understanding of the laws of science on the VE -- the science emerges from the experimental record itself.

A VE comprises between a few tens to several thousand individual frames, photographed over a period of a few hours to several days using either a still camera or a video camera, as appropriate. The movie control is coded either in Flash or in Director/Shockwave, each of which is supported by a free web-browser plug-in. Of the two, Flash has a greater browser penetration, at over 95%, and being incorporated "out of the box" in the commonest browsers.