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Keywords:

  • embedded system;
  • wireless sensor network;
  • virtual laboratory;
  • virtual learning environment;
  • embedded system laboratory activities;
  • TinyOS

ABSTRACT

The emergence of the Internet of Things increases the demand on embedded computer systems, which in turn requires the availability of specialized engineers in the near future. Several universities commenced embedded-systems programming courses to complement students' skills by introducing specific firmware development techniques. Hands-on labs with real hardware interaction is restricted to the time students are in the laboratory whilst virtual-laboratories provide more flexibility at the caveat that students do not improve hardware manipulation skills as they cannot physically inter-actuate with real devices. We argue that students' abilities can be increased by providing them with a sensor board with reduced computation and communication capabilities to work with at home. Students increase the time spent manipulating the device; moreover, their motivation is also increased as they can put their effort on developments of their interest. The article presents the experience carried out at the virtual-course of Embedded-Systems at the UOC. The developed technology, the methodology, and the feedback from students are presented here, and corroborate the benefits of the chosen methodology.© 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Comput Appl Eng Educ 22:639–648, 2014; View this article online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/cae; DOI 10.1002/cae.21555