Developing engineering laboratory education: hybrid virtual lab

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The opportunity for students to engage in practical work (hands on experience) such as relating theory with practice and motivating students is an essential component of degree programmes in the Engineering.

MRes | MPhil | PhD | MSc by Research
Start Date
Usually February and October - at individual School's discretion


There are substantial educational benefits to be realised when high-quality virtual tools are fully integrated alongside traditional laboratory sessions within curricula, each complementing, reinforcing, and enhancing the learning from the other. Current students are the” Digital Generation”, advanced technologies play a big part in their lives, therefore, discipline specialists, industry, and students should work in a collaborative partnership to develop high-quality virtual tools, making full use of emerging technologies, offering flexibility in laboratory format and improve the quality of the overall university experience.

As we are living in the age of Beyond Digitisation, the way how information has been captured, visualised and interacted are completely different as they were in 10 years before. Traditional digitisation process only involves 2D forms such as images, videos etc. where we are now working towards 3D modelling, 3D scanning and advanced digitisation process. In engineering education, there are still quite a lot of fields are waiting to be digitised in new forms and providing hybrid user interactions in meaningful ways. Enhancing the student experience of laboratory practical to work across boundaries and promote high quality learning and transnational education. The hybrid virtual lab ”VLab” would accommodate different student learning styles, preferences, or needs. In additional, enhance collaborative teaching and learning support, keeping students motivated and engaged by user friendly applications, creating share costly equipment and resources in hybrid of real and virtual forms, which are otherwise available to limited number of users due to constraints on resources, time, and work.

Engineering education research is an emerging field of science that is still in the process of rigor establishment. Virtual experimentation facilitates active, enquiry-based learning rather than the passive, protocol driven learning normally found in traditional laboratories, are low cost and enable students to learn in their own time and pace. Their use also overcomes health and safety constraint issues.

Engineering Education Challenges

Changes in technological awareness amongst the “digital generation” are driving a trend towards the seamless integration of technology in the traditional learning environment. The demand of engineers with employability and digital skills will be increasing in the next years rapidly. The rapid pace of change in today’s world and global challenges also means that it is more crucial than ever to develop our student’s skills and attributes necessary to be digitally literate to meet industry requirements. Utilising VLabs provides students with the chance to develop critical thinking, innovative, enriches digital, team working, communication and key employability skills all of which are highly valued in today’s job market. Transferring the traditional laboratories to the hybrid of real and virtual forms are therefore urgent and timely especially in the current post-pandemic recovery.


The overall aim of the research is to facilitate and enhancing laboratory education via implementing new technical and pedagogical models of conducting laboratories through the development of a novel laboratory model virtual access mode.


The specific objectives of the research are to:

  1. Critically review and assess the pedagogical benefits use of virtual tools across the Engineering.
  2. Develop a framework for the implementation of hybrid labs with a case applied to the Oil and Gas Engineering and Mechanical Engineering laboratory.
  3. Determine the impact of the integration of the components of the hybrid approach on students’ learning experience by using educational research methods and modern pedagogical theories.
  4. Develop pedagogically informed model that may cope with the shortcomings of the traditional approach of teaching and learning of engineering labs.
  5. Use feedback theory for modelling learning and pedagogical processes, e.g. providing effective feedback and formative assessment or activating self-regulated learning.
  6. Evaluation and explore the beyond digitisation process to transfer the traditional education methods to the mixture of real and virtual experience.
  7. Explore the challenging research and development practise on the user interactions in virtual space (such as Extended Reality (XR), WebVR, web-based information visualisation and interactions) for digital upskilling and new pedagogical experiment in Engineering.


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It is not unusual for a proposed research degree topic to evolve as you progress through the application stage and even your future studies. This ensures the best match of your academic/professional experience with that of your supervisory team.   

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Entry Requirements for Research Degrees

Normal entry requirements are a first or upper second class honours degree from a University of the United Kingdom, or from an overseas University, or degree equivalent qualification, subject to the approval of Robert Gordon University.

Applicants holding other qualifications shall be considered on their merits and in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed research programme. 

Applicants will normally register for an MSc/PhD or MRes/PhD with transfer to PhD dependent on satisfactory progress. However, applicants who already possess a Master’s degree which includes a significant research component could be registered directly for a PhD, subject to a satisfactory research proposal, and clear evidence of research expertise. 

Some Research Degree Topics require employment experience, research experience and/or transcripts for international qualifications.

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English Language

Any applicant whose first language or language of previous University-level instruction is not English must normally demonstrate competence in English. This should be a score of IELTS 6.5 with 6.5 in all elements, or an approved equivalent.

We accept a variety of in-country and secure English language tests, find out more:

Please note, some courses may require a higher standard of English than stated in this page. Contact for further information.


For Academic Year 2022/2023

UK/EU Students

  • Full time - £4,596 per academic year
  • Part time MPhil/PhD - £2,760 per academic year
  • Part time MRes/MSc by research - £2,298 per academic year

International Students

  • Full time - £17,000 per academic year
  • Part-time MPhil/PhD - £10,200 per academic year
  • Part-time MRes/MSc by research - £8,500 per academic year

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The following course-related costs are not included in the course fees:

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Robert Gordon University is delighted to offer a 20% loyalty discount on course fees for all alumni who have graduated from RGU.

Scholarships and Financial Awards 

Postgraduate research students will normally make their own arrangements for payment of fees. However you may qualify for a scholarship or financial award:

Funded Studentships

Occasionally, the University will also advertise avaliable funded studentships, for very specific topics or subjects:


For new intakes course fees are reviewed and published annually for each mode of delivery. Tuition fees are fixed for the duration of a course at the rate confirmed in the offer letter. For further information see: 


All applications should be made via the University's online application for research students.

Before you apply, find out more about the application process, deadlines, time frames, routes and durations:

Our Research degrees usually start in February and October each year. There are no formal deadlines for you to submit your application, though we recommend you submit it as early as possible in order to ensure we can help you join us at your preferred time. 

Completed application forms should be accompanied by:

  • Two academic references
  • A transcript or mark sheet for all graduate qualifications
  • A draft research proposal, or at least a short summary to indicate the potential area of research (Refer to Section 8 of the Application Form)

For applicants whose first language or language of university education is not English, applications must include:

  • Certificate of English language competency score of IELTS 6.5 and 6.5 in all elements, or an approved equivalent. 
  • Students who can demonstrate successful completion of tertiary (university or college) studies in a country whose national language is English, may be exempted from this requirement.

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