From ACM Computing Surveys, v38i3, Hands-on, simulated, and remote laboratories: A comparative literature review by Jing Ma and Jeffrey V. Nickerson:
Laboratory-based courses play a critical role in scientific education. Automation is changing the nature of these laboratories, and there is a long-running debate about the value of hands-on versus simulated laboratories. In addition, the introduction of remote laboratories adds a third category to the debate. Through a review of the literature related to these labs in education, the authors draw several conclusions about the state of current research. The debate over different technologies is confounded by the use of different educational objectives as criteria for judging the laboratories: Hands-on advocates emphasize design skills, while remote lab advocates focus on conceptual understanding. We observe that the boundaries among the three labs are blurred in the sense that most laboratories are mediated by computers, and that the psychology of presence may be as important as technology. We also discuss areas for future research.I've posted about this topic before here. This is a very interesting area to me as it seems to be a way to truly bring so much of the possibilities of science education to people who, for whatever reason, can't make it too a real lab. Think of the possibilities.