Three Steps to Setup Virtual Labs

Virtual Labs Decision Model

Although virtual lab is promising to deliver the hands-on experience to the student in massive and simple way. Virtual Labs is not a silver bullet for any situation.

Virtual Lab can be done if

  • There is no need with special hardware
  • There is no urgent need for specific physical skills / behavior
  • The hardware can be replaced by the simulator
  • The software can be obtained by the student / the organization
  • The safety and health environment protocol can be prepared and followed by the student

Virtual Labs Execution Model

Whether you are creating a lab for DevOps, professional development for your employer, or managing classroom / school lab for course. Virtual Lab might be an answer for delivering a practice experience to the students / participants. Today I will discuss how to setup the virtual lab by using Cloud Computing technology. There are two main scenarios for virtual labs. The scenario can be blended for specific need.

  • Self-Paced Virtual Lab. This is asynchronous model when student can learn and practice with their own hardware or organization hardware. The idea of this virtual lab is by giving the student guidance and the student can do hands-on-lab based on their prime time.
  • Remote Learning Virtual Lab. This is synchronous model when student can learn and practice with the assistance of a mentor / facilitator. The idea of this virtual lab is by giving student virtual classroom and assistance during the hands-on-lab.

Virtual Labs Infrastructure Option

There are two options when preparing the infrastructure

  • Bring your own device (BYOD) option. The student will prepare the hardware, the software, and the connection itself. The organization needs to prepare a guide / hands-on-lab module for the lab. This can be done when the software / hardware can be obtained easily (consumer computing platform)
  • Virtualization option. The organization will prepare the computing infrastructure and the simulator. The organization manages many aspect of the infrastructure the student only need to prepare the sufficient internet connection.

Virtual Lab Setup

The virtual lab can be setup based on the three previous steps above. To understand more, let's do some virtual lab implementation sample.

Virtual Labs Implementation Sample

Let us Imagine Contoso University will hold a virtual lab session for their object-oriented programming lab works (OOP Lab works).

Virtual Labs Decision Model

Yes, the virtual lab can be implemented because

  • OOP Lab works does not need special hardware
  • OOP Lab works only need computer and IDE (Integrated development environment)
  • OOP Lab works safety and health environment can be followed by student

Virtual Labs Execution Model

The OOP lab work has 6 units module, 5 practice sessions and one capstone project session. 5 units will follow the remote learning virtual labs, and one capstone unit will follow self-paced virtual lab.

Virtual Labs Infrastructure Option

After capturing the student hardware capability, the Contoso University choose the virtualization option. This is to make sure that every student will help similar experience with hardware and software configuration.

Virtual Lab Setup

On this setup, the organization already subscribe two cloud services

Hardware Configuration

The organization creates the Azure Lab Services by following these steps

Software Configuration

  • Microsoft Teams is created by following these steps
  • The hands-on lab module is created and deployed in Microsoft Teams
  • The assessment is created and deployed in Microsoft Teams
  • Assistant is enrolled to the Teams
  • Channel is configured and the students are enrolled
  • The VM is created by following Azure VM with Visual Studio 2019 on it.
  • The VM contains Microsoft Teams application from Office 365 subscription

Having idea to implement Virtual Lab for any other scenario, please share on the comment below.

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